MIAMI — Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Reggie Williams has one of the most interesting backgrounds among Super Bowl players.
Williams, who grew up in Flint and went to Flint Southwestern High, is a Cincinnati city councilman, holds a psychology degree from Dartmouth, was elected NFL Man of the Year in 1986, and attended a state dinner at the White House last year. He has received numerous awards for work with charities and the community.
That made Williams, 34, a popular subject for reporters during interviews this week. Some of his comments:
On his dual role as football player and city councilman: “Football is immediate gratification. You make the tackle or you don’t. City Council is lobbying, waiting, arguing. It takes forever, but you know that what you’re doing can affect the lives of thousands of people. I think I’m a better football player because I’m a city councilman, and I’m a better councilman because I’m a football player.
Growing up in Flint: “I grew up in the ’60s. There were all sorts of disturbances in those days — in classses, in the schoolyards, in the street. The streets of Detroit had the riots in 1968. I remember the constant anger the most, that everyone was mad about something. It seemed like the only outlet was violence — not just physical violence, but mental violence, talk and dialogue.
“There was this time in our school, when I was in 10th grade, where a student was arrested right in the hallway, in front of the students. A black student arrested by white cops. There was a feeling that day that everything we had been hearing about Detroit had arrived in Flint. It was if if we were saying, ‘The riots are here! The riots are here!’
“It was hard for me because I was a pacifistic, nonviolent kind of kid. The most frustrating memory I have of that time was walking down the hallway and seeing a white friend of mine take a ferocious hit in the jaw from a black friend of mine. I’ll never forget it. I didn’t know what to do, or whose side to take. It was shocking. I just kept walking.”
His childhood: “My father worked in Fisher Body during the day and drove a cab at night to try to provide a life for us. We lived in a bad neighborhood. We eventually were able to move to a better neighborhood, and because of that, I was able to go to a better school where they discovered my hearing problem. Because of my hearing problem, I had developed a speech impediment.
“The early part of my childhood was a mixture of frustration and humiliation. I was not normal like the other kids. They just thought I was slow. My grades were poor. Had that (the speech impediment) not been discovered, I would never have been educated.”
Education: “My mother is a voracious reader. My very first, most important possession was my library card. I went every Saturday to the library. Both my parents dropped out of high school, but went back to get their degrees later. That was a big inspiration.”
Why he became a football player: “I didn’t start playing football until the
10th grade. The only reason I started playing then was social; football players were more readily accepted than bookworms. I went out for football to avoid being a nerd. Also to try and get a date for the senior prom. It was a two-year program, but it worked.” VERBAL WARS: The buildup between San Francisco and Cincinnati had been noticeably lacking in potshots, but 49ers cornerback Tim McKyer took care of that.
McKyer claimed, “We can blow these guys (Bengals) out.”
McKyer waved a hand to reporters and announced: “That Super Bowl ring is already as good as there.” He also referred to the 49ers defensive backs as Mercedes-Benzes and the Bengals receivers as Chevrolets.
Bengals cornerback Eric Thomas replied that his team’s entire defensive backfield is faster than San Francisco wide receiver Jerry Rice.
“McKyer managed to criticize our receivers, defensive backs and Chevrolet all at once,” Cincinnati wide receiver Cris Collinsworth said. MIAMI STILL SUPER: The street riots that disrupted Miami this week would not affect the city’s chances of hosting future Super Bowls, NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle said. The next two Super Bowls have been awarded to New Orleans and Tampa. The 1992 game is probably headed for a northern city with a domed stadium, likely to be Indianapolis.
* WHO: AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals and NFC champion San Francisco 49ers.
* WHEN: Kickoff is 5:18.
* TV/RADIO: NBC, Channel 4 in Detroit; WWJ 950-AM.
* LINE: 49ers by 7.
* WHERE: Joe Robbie Stadium, Miami. Capacity: 74,930.
Linebacker Reggie Williams, who grew up in Flint, anchors the Bengals’ defense.