Gold Jacket Spotlight: Aeneas Williams a man with a mission

Gold Jacket Spotlight Published on : 2/26/2024
Enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame cemented AENEAS WILLIAMS' legacy as a renowned football player. 

The statistics, the awards, the postseason recognitions earned throughout Aeneas’s 14 professional seasons career confirmed the New Orleans native’s goal to be one of the best cornerbacks to play in the National Football League.

Through the lens of life experiences, Aeneas responded to the calling of a mission that is the focus of this week’s Gold Jacket Spotlight.

“I have a mission in life to help people go to their grave empty instead of full,” Aeneas proclaimed in an NFL Network “A Football Life” documentary.

“Many that are buried,” Aeneas explained, “they went to the grave without exhausting or utilizing their full potential.”

Aeneas’s mission: encourage everyone he encounters to maximize their talents.

To ensure he practiced what he preached, Aeneas wrote his own obituary.

“So many people think it is morbid; they think it accelerates your death,” he said. “But it really doesn’t. It begins to accelerate your life. When you write out the end, it helps you make better decisions at the beginning.”

So committed was Aeneas to his mission, then-Ferguson (Mo.) Mayor James Knowles III called on him to assist with calming the situation in the aftermath of the 2014 social protests there. 

“When I thought of Aeneas, I realized there is someone here who has a little bit of star power. I believed he had pure intentions,” recalled Knowles in the “Football Life” documentary. “Someone who I believed could also be able to connect with young people.”

Aeneas, lead pastor of The Spirit Church near Ferguson, shared his perspective upon responding to Knowles appeal, saying, “That’s what I learned in these types of situations: The ability to find out what’s the root cause, what’s the issue. Not get stuck by what’s happened but get moved by what can happen.”

Later, that experience prompted Aeneas into recognizing the potential influence and responsibility of wearing a Gold Jacket, melding enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and a higher calling.

“I started thinking about the game of football. I started thinking about the Hall of Fame. I started thinking about, ‘What is this Gold Jacket all about?’ This Gold Jacket is something that may gain notoriety, but it’s really an expectation of service.”

“What if we become a catalyst for change for our entire country?” Aeneas pondered.

Aeneas’ football and spiritual leadership qualities have been observed and respected by teammates, opponents and fellow Hall of Famers.

“Guys just followed him,” said Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback and former St. Louis Rams teammate KURT WARNER. “He had an air about him that wherever he went, whatever he did, people would line up behind him to go, ‘I’m next.’”

Former Cardinals teammate Tim McDonald declared: “The guy was so special, you couldn’t overlook it. You learn from a guy like Aeneas how to handle tough situations.”

Utilizing another trait developed as a defensive back, Aeneas learned to manage adverse situations by implementing what coach Marty Schottenheimer deemed “selective amnesia.”

“Two things I had to immediately learn,” Aeneas once explained. “Have selective amnesia and the other is to totally forget what happened — good or bad — in the prior play and be in the moment, which has significantly helped me as a person in life and also as a Christian.”

Warner, noting Aeneas’ football and spiritual insight after the defensive back’s trade from the Cardinals to the Rams, added, “It was fun to watch a guy come in, a guy you would say was an outsider from what we accomplished early, and have such a dramatic, instantaneous impact on our team and, more importantly, on the character of the men around him.”

Aeneas’ mission, and his impact, continue today.