Rochester's Roots: Retired NFL star Roland Williams

February 19, 2019 09:26 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) -- Roland Williams was on top of the football world.

The Rochester native helped the St. Louis Rams win the Super Bowl. While he did his fair share of celebrating, he knew that his path to get to the top took a long time.


"It's believing in yourself and never giving up on your dreams," said Roland Williams, "a lot of people may tell you what you can and cannot do but you have to believe in yourself first and continue to work hard and maximize yourself."

Hard work is a theme in the story of Williams and it's one that starts years before winning a Super Bowl.

He was a star at East High School and went on to play at Syracuse.

In 1998, the St. Louis Rams drafted him in the fourth round. But already, on a day that is completely about him, Williams knew that reaching his goals was a team effort.

"It's not always just about me as a person physically going out and playing football but it's about all the people who put you in position to be able to go out and play football and get there," Williams told News10NBC when he was drafted in 1998.

After winning the Super Bowl, Williams came back to the place that shaped him into the champion that he was and started a free football camp to help kids in Rochester become better players.

"What this camp is, is more than just a football camp. It's an environment that's going to give them a chance to see the highest level," said Williams. "They're going to understand what it takes to play football at its highest level and to attack life at its highest level."

He also brought along Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner to help.

"Just talking with Roland, I understand how big the community is in this," said Warner, "how much they support this and what Roland does, not just to put on a football camp and teach them football skills, but to teach them life skills, things that they can use well beyond football playing days, that they can use for a lifetime."

And the success and impact that the football camp had on Rochester's youth led to Williams' greatest impact on his hometown.

He wanted to do more for the community where he grew up and that's when the Champion Academy came to be.

"In order for us to change our community it's going to require that we have perseverance, and willing to learn and think outside the box and keep fighting to move forward," said Williams. 

The Champion Academy is a mentoring program that helps hundreds of at-risk youth in the Rochester area with support in and out of the classroom to help kids reach their full potential.

"Before the academy started, I never thought I could believe in myself or become what I wanted to become," said former Champion Academy student Serenity Harris, "but now at the Champion Academy, I believe I can become anything I want to be."

"Extreme mentoring I think is the future of trying to engage students who are faced with a whole lot of challenges and help get them on the path towards success," added Williams.

East High retired the number of the best football player to play for its program.

Roland Williams hopes that his work in the Rochester community brings out the best in the young people in his hometown.


Rich Donnelly

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