Cowboys offensive tackle, 1991-2001
Nickname: Big E
Career Stats: click here
Breakdown: A 6-foot-6, 330-pound offensive tackle who could dominate pass rushers with his strength and keep them far from Troy Aikman with this unparalleled (for an elephant-sized human) foot quickness. Williams was destined to reach the Hall of Fame until a 1994 car accident nearly ended his life and took away many of his physical gifts.
Pearlmanâ€™s take: Yet another Cowboy who didn’t know how much he hadâ€”until it was gone. Like Michael Irvin, Clayton Holmes, Alvin Harper, et al, Williams spent too much time partying and living the life, too little time attending to business. He was a truly great player who lived recklessly and paid a dear price.
From Boys Will Be Boys: Several of the teamâ€™s stars, including Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith, Kenny Gant and Erik Williams, jumped into their vehicles and headed for a club, Iguana Mirage, where they spent a couple of hours pounding drinks and recapping the game. At approximately 3 a.m. Williams, the Pro Bowl right tackle, rose from his seat, hollered â€œIâ€™m gone fellas!â€ exited the front door and climbed into his Mercedes-Benz. Though Williams had downed his fair share of alcohol, nobody was especially concerned. The Cowboys drank hard. It was how they lived.
Minutes after Williamsâ€™ departure Gant followed, steering his car onto Interstate 635. Upon approaching the exit for the Dallas North Tollway, Gant spotted a twisted pretzel of metal and tire steaming by the guardrail. â€œThat looks like some accident,â€ he thought to himself before realizingâ€”Oh my God!â€”it was Williamsâ€™ Benz. Gant skidded to a halt and ran toward the wreckage. Slumped onto the passengerâ€™s seat, Williams was breathing softly. Blood covered his body. Gant grabbed his arm. â€œMan, donâ€™t you die on me, motherfucker!â€ he screamed. â€œDonâ€™t you die on me!â€ Williams weighed 324 pounds, far too heavy for the 189-pound Gant to carry from the car. â€œKenny?â€ Williams gasped, his eyes half opened. â€œKenny?â€ Gant began to weep.
When the ambulance arrived, Gant removed Williamsâ€™ bloodied Rolex and jewelry and drove to Parkland Memorial Hospital. Several of the Cowboys met Gant in the waiting room, where they sat and prayed until 8 oâ€™clock Monday morning. Williams, doctors told them, would liveâ€”but his body was descimated. He suffered a broken rib, multiple cuts on his face, a torn ligament in his left thumb and a sprained right knee. Known to teammates as a voracious drinker, an obsessive collector of firearms and an unpredictably moody man, Williams lying listless was a harrowing sight.
â€œThe thing I remember most is his face,â€ says Derek Kennard, the offensive lineman. â€œThe skin was torn from his hairline all the way down to his nose.â€
Police later determined that Williams was driving 75 mph with a blood alcohol level of .17â€”well above the legal limit of .10. He would return the following season, but not as the same dominant player.
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