As a child growing up in the small town of Hamlet, North Carolina, Perry Williams often dreamed of playing in the Super Bowl.
Even if those around him scoffed at the idea.
“I was 11 years old, and I would tell my mother and grandmother I was going to be somebody, that I was going to work hard, win a scholarship, go to college, and after I got out of college, I was going to play in the NFL, and I was going to be on TV and play in the Super Bowl,” Williams said.
His grandmother laughed.
“Playing in the Super Bowl?” Williams recalled her saying. “The only kind of Super Bowl you’ll probably end up playing in is the ‘Toilet Bowl.’ And she and my mother started laughing. I said, ‘You can laugh now, but one day I’ll show you better than I can tell you.’ ”
Williams, a cornerback who played with the Giants from 1983-94, reminded them of that story the night before the Giants faced the Broncos in Super Bowl XXI after the 1986 season.
“My grandmother said, ‘I’ll see you guys tomorrow. Kick their butts.’ And I said, ‘What do you think about that ‘Toilet Bowl’ kid now?”
Williams remembers that his grandmother laughed. “She said, ‘You remember that?’ ” he said. “I told her, ‘I sure did.’ ”
Williams helped shut down the Broncos in a 39-20 victory to give the Giants their first Super Bowl title. He also was a starting cornerback for the Giants in their 20-19 win over the Bills in Super Bowl XXV.
Williams, the Giants’ seventh-round pick in 1983, is one of several pro athletes to grow up in Hamlet, a town of less than 7,000 in Richmond County. Others included Eagles receiver Mike Quick, Bengals cornerback Louis Breeden, Ravens and Dolphins linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and former Dodgers outfielder Franklin Stubbs.
Williams played for North Carolina State and was a world-class sprinter before playing in the NFL. A top runner at 200 meters who once was ranked ahead of famed Olympian Carl Lewis, Williams qualified for the U.S. Olympic team in 1980, but then-President Jimmy Carter ordered a boycott of the Games, which were held in Moscow during the Soviet Union’s war with Afghanistan.
When asked if he regretted not going on to a track and field career like Lewis, who won nine Olympic gold medals, Williams quipped, “That’s OK. I had to settle for two Super Bowl rings.”