September 12, 2009

Mike Wise, of the DC Post, wrote about Camille Pierce and the strength of her personality. “The woman called her nephew excitedly at about 4 p.m. Saturday, informing him the news conference to announce the 53-man roster was scheduled for 6 p.m. Being on pins and needles about whether he would make the final cut for the Washington Redskins, Edwin Williams knew this of course. What he didn’t know was from where Camille Pierce, his aunt and sometimes surrogate mother, was calling — and why she knew so much. “I’m at Redskins Park,” she said. “What?” Edwin said, stunned. “You’re at Redskins Park? What are you doing there?” Camille Pierce laughs now and explains. It’s like when the little boy the family called “Ham” needed to be picked up from school, before he grew into a 6-foot-3, 300-pound-plus star at DeMatha High School and later the University of Maryland. Before Edwin Williams wound up as an undrafted rookie free agent this summer in Ashburn, a long shot to make the team — back when he was a child in need. When Camille was working late, she recalled, she had her friend, a police officer, pick up Edwin and his sister Danielle in a squad car. She didn’t care if her nephew was embarrassed about his ride; she wanted to make sure he got home safe, that support was there. That’s why she telephoned The Post’s Sports department on Saturday and politely asked where the news conference was and could she please have directions to Ashburn, as if Edwin Williams was 10, trying to get a part in a school play. Or make his Pop Warner roster. Really, what relative of an undrafted long shot is brave enough to show up to an NFL team’s training facility without the player or team’s knowledge — on cut-down day? “I know, I just can’t stop treatin’ him like a baby,” Camille said. “I wanted to see it happen for him. And if it didn’t happen I wanted to make sure I was there to for him, to show him no matter what I’m there for him.” Edwin Williams needed people there for him, especially as a child. He and Danielle were the products of cocaine-addicted parents, both of whom learned that staying clean in recovery was much more of an odyssey than their son one day trying to make an NFL roster. Cheron Williams and Edwin Sr., in a very revealing interview with The Post’s Steve Yanda this past May, told of Cheron’s prenatal cocaine use and of their dual sobriety in Narcotics Anonymous — going on two decades each now. How they incessantly drilled into their children’s heads one credo: “You don’t want to end up like your Mom and Dad.” “We were shielded and protected from a lot of what happened,” Edwin said. “We never saw the worst parts of the addiction as children — or at least other people in our lives tried not to let us see it.” Raised by Camille and his grandparents, Thomas and Orlean Pierce, and Danielle, Edwin overcame his own juvenile ways at DeMatha before ending up a three-year starter at Maryland, where he played center on the offensive line and in his senior year won the 2008 Wilma Rudolph Award, the national honor given to student-athletes who have overcome “great personal, academic and/or emotional odds to achieve academic success.” When he wasn’t drafted, the chances of playing in the NFL began to dim. But Edwin believed, like another undrafted offensive lineman from Maryland two years ago, Stephon Heyer, that if he persevered every day in training camp the Redskins would have a tough time cutting him. Early on in training camp, he bumped helmets with Albert Haynesworth, the $100 million free agent defensive lineman, who, after the play, looked at Williams and said, dismissively, “You think you can block me?” “In my mind I thought, ‘That’s what I thought I was doing,’ but I didn’t say anything,” Edwin said. “If I was at Maryland I would have named him every name I know. But I just got out of college. I didn’t have that reputation. I just went back to the huddle and did my job.” Joe Bugel, the team’s offensive line coach for life, a man Edwin calls “legendary” — “As in, you just want to keep hearing the stories of Coach Buges, you know,” he said — became a believer. But it still wasn’t clear the newbie would make the team, especially with so much keen competition for the final roster spots. For the first time in his career he was also switching from center to left guard, where the coaching staff wanted him to back up Derrick Dockery. Along with Bugel, Casey Rabach also became a benefactor. Williams called the veteran lineman the smartest, most professional, down-to-earth veteran any rookie could ever come across. “Watching Casey, listening to him, made me a better player,” he said. He kept persevering, showing up and occasionally standing up veterans across the line — until Saturday morning, about 9 a.m., when a call from his agent came. Yes, he knew he had made the 53-man roster before Auntie Camille, camped out at Redskins Park, awaiting word. Camille once worked for “60 Minutes” as an assistant producer in the show’s infancy and recently retired as a chief of staff in the U.S. Office of Housing and Urban Development. “Let’s just say I knew my way around,” she said. She spoke to members of the coaching staff and their secretaries at Redskins Park, learning in fact her nephew had made his first NFL team long before the news conference began. “They didn’t want her to stay and start making noise when they announced I had made it,” Edwin said. “They thought it might be disrespectful to other people who hadn’t made the team.” They shared their happiness over the phone and met up at his grandmother’s house in Northeast Washington the next morning, where his mother joined in the celebration of her son’s greatest moment in football — the day after Edwin Williams made the final roster of his hometown Washington Redskins. If you’re wondering how he got there, he was driving Camille’s Chevy Tahoe. “A little bit ago Edwin’s Ford Explorer broke down twice in the left hand lane of the Beltway,” she said. “The last time was an electrical problem. So I just gave him my keys. Had to make sure he had a ride.”





Mike Bianci, of the Orlando Sentinel, tells us how FSU’s President T. K. Wetherell is tilting at the NCAA windmill. “Can hardly wait until the media finally gets to see the official transcripts of Florida State University’s appeal of the NCAA penalties that resulted from the school’s infamous academic cheating scandal. Just guessing, but I’m thinking somewhere in the transcripts will be this exchange between FSU President T.K. Wetherell and members of the NCAA Committee on Infractions: Wetherell: “Liar, liar, pants on fire!” NCAA committee members in singsong unison: “We’re rubber, you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off of us and sticks to you!” Seriously, isn’t this getting embarrassing? Wetherell is supposed to be helping legendary football coach Bobby Bowden get back up to 14 victories that the NCAA says FSU must vacate as a result of the academic transgressions. Bowden, of course, is two victories behind Joe Paterno in the race to see which legend will become major college football’s all-time winningest coach. But if Wetherell keeps hurling barbs at NCAA investigators and making them mad, Bowden may soon end up in a career victory battle with another Big Ten coach — Ron Zook. Wetherell is the president of an institution of higher learning and should be trying to make this humiliating academic fraud scandal go away. Instead, he keeps drawing national attention to it. This is getting to be like the old Groundhog Day movie. Every day, every year, it’s the same scenario. Yet another football season has started and here we are once again discussing FSU’s dirty laundry. We should be focusing on the positive development of Christian Ponder as a quarterback, but instead we’re still talking about the latest development in FSU’s cheating case. The latest episode came on national TV Monday night before FSU’s season-opening game against rival Miami. Wetherell, during a pre-game interview with ESPN, accused the NCAA of using unscrupulous “bait and switch” tactics in its investigation and said the organization reneged on an agreement with FSU. The NCAA, which hardly ever makes public comments on pending cases, issued a statement and said Wetherell’s claims are simply “not true.” A couple of years ago, I commended Wetherell for aggressively leading the charge and beating the NCAA in FSU’s fight to keep its American-Indian nickname. His cocky, flamboyant style was refreshing then. Now it’s totally out of place. This isn’t about a school mascot; it’s about a university’s entire academic reputation. And that means Wetherell should stop acting like Chief Osceola going to battle with a flaming spear and start acting like a university president who is judiciously fighting to preserve his institution’s intellectual integrity. The thing is, Wetherell is absolutely right in what he’s trying to do; he’s just going about it all wrong. He should be trying to get back Bowden’s victories, but he should be working quietly behind the scenes, not loudly in front of ESPN cameras. He should be doing it with decorum and diplomacy, not with grandstanding and name-calling. He should be doing it by reasoning with NCAA committee members, not ridiculing them. If Wetherell truly wants to get back Bobby’s wins then maybe he should go on ESPN again and this time make a humble, heartfelt plea to college football fans and the NCAA Appeals Committee. Politely and passionately, he should ask committee members to have mercy on Bowden, who is one of the greatest coaches and ambassadors college football has ever had. He should tell the whole world what an absolute shame it would be if Bobby’s iconic career is tainted because of the malfeasance of others. He should point out how unfair it would be for Bobby’s reputation to be disgraced because some nameless, faceless tutors helped FSU football players cheat in an online music course. And if Wetherell is serious about recovering those wins, he should look straight into those cameras and say this to committee members: “Coach Bowden has meant everything to Florida State University. Give us another penalty instead. Fine us a million dollars if you have to. Take away a few more scholarships. Just please give our coach his dignity back.” In the end, isn’t that what this appeals process should be about? Shouldn’t it be about Bobby Bowden’s legacy instead of T.K. Wetherell’s lunacy?


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