Aeneas WilliamsFootball Player
Fortier H.S./Southern University/NFL
Whether playing for Fortier High School in his native New Orleans or for the Southern Jaguars or during 14 seasons in the NFL, Aeneas Williams was a remarkable playmaker as a defensive back. His ability to make interceptions and to frequently find the end zone after doing so made him one of the best defensive backs to play for Southern or in the NFL.
Williams was a standout at Fortier, but got off to a late start in college, concentrating on academics until he walked on with the Jaguars as a sophomore. He proved to be a quick study in the classroom and on the football field. He became a starter by the fifth game of his first season and by the end of his senior season he was tying the NCAA Division I-AA single-season record for interceptions by making 11. Williams left the Jaguars campus in Baton Rouge with 20 interceptions and 28 passes defended, not to mention a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a 3.2 grade-point average.
Williams’ knack for making interceptions followed him to the NFL, which he joined in 1991 as a third-round draft choice of the then-Phoenix Cardinals. He played 10 seasons with the Cardinals, who were later renamed the Arizona Cardinals, before being traded to the St. Louis Rams for whom he played four seasons. Williams earned eight Pro Bowl berths, including six straight with the Cardinals from 1994-99.
NFL quarterbacks facing Williams learned the same thing that signal-callers learned when they faced Southern during Williams’ tenure there – throw at him at your own risk. He led NFL with nine interceptions in 1994. Williams wasn’t satisfied just to make an interception, he wanted to get to the end zone. Once he got the football in his hands, he seemed to turn into an offensive player.
Williams scored 13 career regular-season touchdowns – nine on interception returns, three on fumble returns, and one on a return of a blocked field goal. He returned two interceptions for touchdowns in the same playoff game for the Rams in 2001. During his NFL career, Williams made 55 interceptions and was one of only three players with 40 interceptions during the 1990s.
Honors have to come to Williams during and after his NFL career with nearly the same frequency that quarterbacks’ passes found their way into his hands. He was named to the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 1990’s at cornerback being joined by fellow standouts Darrell Green, Rod Woodson, and Deion Sanders.
Williams’ accomplishments at Fortier and Southern were also noted when he was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2008. He appears on the fast track to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as well because he was a semifinalist last fall in first year of eligibility.
Aeneas Williams, Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2010, seems headed to Canton, Ohio as surely as he seemed headed to the end zone after making one of his signature interceptions.
[Story submitted by Les East of the Greater New Orleans Sports Selection Committee]