- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving was a bleak day for the Williams family on Lee Street in Northeast Washington two decades ago.

Cheron and her husband, Edwin, both were habitual users of cocaine. The drug problem left them unable to tend to their two young children, who instead were placed in the care of her parents.

One of those children was a toddler, nicknamed “Ham” for his huge legs that resembled ham hocks. Edwin Jr. wasn’t just big, he was too big - he wasn’t allowed to play youth football because he weighed almost twice the 75-pound limit.

The odds of that child, emerging from those circumstances, one day starting in the National Football League were astronomical.

On Sunday, Edwin Williams Jr. will beat those odds. Williams, now 22 and a rookie free agent, is expected to start on the offensive line for the Washington Redskins when they face the Philadelphia Eagles.

Williams’ ability to play both guard and center, where he started for three years for the Maryland Terrapins, won him one of the final 53 roster spots with the Redskins coming out of training camp this summer.

But a roster spot doesn’t guarantee playing time: Williams was placed on the inactive list for each of the Redskins’ first five games and suited up the next four games without ever stepping onto the field.

Williams’ moment finally arrived on Sunday in Dallas, where a struggling Redskins team faced its bitter rival in the Cowboys.

Starting guard Chad Rinehart suffered a season-ending broken leg on the first series of the second half, but coach Jim Zorn didn’t insert the more seasoned Will Montgomery in his place.

Zorn instead chose the 6-foot-3, 315-pound D.C. native with the ready smile and the bachelor’s degree in communications.

“He held his own,” Zorn says of Williams. “He did a nice job. He was physical. He anchored very well. When he got his hand on a guy, he stayed with him. The more he stayed in there, the better he got. As he gets more and more comfortable at that position, he’s going to try not to let it go.”

That solid performance in his NFL debut marks a major milestone in Williams’ journey, but he is not the only member of the family who has come a long way.

Even when Mrs. Williams was pregnant with daughter Danielle in 1983 and with Edwin Jr. in 1986, neither she nor her husband could let their addictions go.

“I did an awful thing: I jeopardized innocent babies’ lives,” Mrs. Williams says. “Only through God’s grace did these kids survive. But I was caught in the grips of my addiction. It’s no excuse. It’s just how it was. There was so much I didn’t know.”

For about a decade, they struggled to beat their problem. While her parents cared for the children, Mrs. Williams and her husband were on the streets of the District and cities up and down the East Coast. Eventually, they entered rehab and emerged clean.

Story Continues →