Former NFL player encourages WEHS students
Former NFL player Troy Williamson spoke to students at Williston-Elko High School on Dec. 1.
Having grown up in Petticoat Junction in Aiken County, Williamson said he understands the hardships faced by many in rural areas. He encouraged the students to make the right choices and follow their dreams.
“I see myself in a lot of you guys,” said Williamson to the students.
He discussed some of the difficulties he endured growing up, including being burned in an accident, the death of his older brother, bullying, growing up in poverty in a single parent household, staying in trouble, and having no aspirations for the future.
“I was just living. You’ve got to have goals, something in front of you,” he said.
The death of his brother proved to be a critical turning point in Williamson’s life. “That broke and changed me.”
His mother sent him to live with his godfather so he could have a chance at more stability, discipline and structure. This turned out to be the best decision, he said.
Williamson became focused on making good grades so he could leave home and make something of himself. After graduating from Silver Bluff High School he went to the University of South Carolina. He ended up leaving early after being drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in 2005.
He played for five seasons in the National Football League before retiring. He now has a foundation which allows him to give back to his hometown and also speaks to students.
Susan Eichman, a nurse at Williston-Elko High School, said she met Williamson recently at a Gamecock tailgating event. A conversation about whether his children were expected to perform at higher athletic abilities due to his athletic talents led Eichman to talk about the battles many of her students face at home and school. That’s when she learned about his childhood and how he now spends a lot of time talking to children.
“By sharing his life story, he hopes to encourage them to make positive choices, stay focused on school, and to be good role models for their peers and siblings,” she said.
While sports isn’t for everyone, Williamson encouraged the students to find a reason to work hard and make something out of themselves.