In his heyday, Rams safety Aeneas Williams was a feared enforcer in the defensive backfield for the Rams and Cardinals, earning his way to eight different Pro Bowls and developing a reputation as the perennial leader of his team’s defense. He was almost a poor man’s past-centric Brian Dawkins at his best, and when Williams walked away from the game in 2005, there was reason to believe he may have had a couple more good seasons left in his tank, even though he was already 37.
Well, now we know why he was ready to leave: Williams was about to embark on a second career as an evangelical pastor. Just three years removed from retirement, Williams has a flourishing congregation in suburban St. Louis, his Spirit of the Lord Family Church worshipping in the ballroom of a Crowne Plaza Hotel in Clayton, Mo., according to the ASSOCIATED PRESS, though a permanent home for the church is expected in the future.
In the meantime, Williams is gaining a loyal following of Christians who have taken to his message of experiential faith, trying to help his parishioners find God in their everyday lives. Not surprisingly, Williams has a knack of leaning on his own life in football to express how he developed his own spiritual connection with God.
According to AP reporter Betsy Taylor, Williams grounded an entire recent sermon on his experience as a young Cardinals player when new defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan arrived. While he was apprehensive about adjusting to a new defensive scheme and Ryan’s coaching methods, it was the new coordinator who got more out of Williams, prodding him to his first All-Pro season.
(Williams, in a nearby location but a former profession.)
Fittingly, Williams has a knack for understanding why that lesson was particularly important, and how he could use it to guide others.
“Fear is what causes people not to grow,” Williams said. “But you never know it because it hides so well.”
Now, Williams seems to have rid himself of the ghosts of his career — including a crushing Super Bowl loss to the Patriots — by focusing all his energy and effort on helping others. It’s another trait he picked up while he was still a player and has adapted to his new life as a pastor, which one former coach finds particularly appropriate.
“I can’t imagine him doing anything else,” said former Rams coach Mike Martz, who cited “his quiet confidence, his unshakability and resolve,” as reasons why Williams will succeed.
Williams seems more than confident, too, though that should hardly be a surprise. After all, as much as professions may change, some personalities always stay the same.