CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea -- After being a part of the Baltimore Ravens practice squad during his 1997 rookie season, John Williams Jr. was finally activated to play during the team's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"Just the thrill and excitement of going through the tunnel onto the field is something I will never forget," said the now-staff sergeant, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Far East District construction representative.
Williams, who comes from a lineage of athletes, joined the Army after a nine-year career of playing professional football.
His father was a football coach in his hometown of Hammond, Louisiana. Both Williams and his father are hall-of-fame recipients at their alma mater, Southern University. He had two uncles, David and Clyde Williams, who both played football in the NFL, along with his younger brother Brock.
"My uncles were my influence to play sports," said Williams. "I also had the gift and natural ability to excel in sports growing up."
Going into his sophomore year of college, Williams' team won the Black College Football National Championship, which led to him gaining attention from football scouts after being a part of a few high-profile games. Starting his senior year as a Preseason All-American, he led his team in interceptions.
"Because of my status as an All-American, I was highly recruited by professional teams and worked out with several pro teams before joining the NFL," said Williams. "[In] 1997 I was picked up as a free agent with the Ravens."
Williams was a part of a few other professional teams until he decided to retire in 2005. After his retirement, he settled in Los Angeles and worked a few odd jobs, before deciding to make a drastic change in his life.
"Late one night I was praying and asked God for guidance on what I should do next," said Williams.
He stated that after that prayer, he coincidentally found an Army helmet with the initial "W" inside of it, and it felt like a sign from God to join the Army.
For Williams, playing football taught him to be tough, resilient, and to never give up. He said that being successful at football is a team effort that takes integrity and loyalty among all individuals.
"Coming into the military, that's something that I wanted deeply," said Williams. "I wanted to me to be a part of a brotherhood that allows be to apply my skills on a larger scale."
Family is important to Williams, and besides his wife and their four children, he feels a part of a much larger family that he also cherishes.
"I am thankful that I am a part of the Army and USACE," said Williams. "It's great to be a part of a team with individuals who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. It doesn't feel like a job to me, it's more like a family. To be a part of that I feel privileged."
Williams is currently promotable to sergeant first class, and looks forward to serving 20 or more years in the Army before retiring.