- Associated Press - Monday, November 9, 2015

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - Darius Williams wonders all the time how his life would be different. He knows it would be.

His father, Darrent Williams, was a millionaire by 23 and an NFL starter on the Denver Broncos.

But what Darius wonders and what he lives with are two different things.

Now 16 and a junior cornerback at Fort Worth Arlington Heights, he is trying to chase what Darrent achieved while living with only a memory.

“I just try to work hard so I can get (to the NFL), so my kids will be like I was,” Darius told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (http://bit.ly/1MaNymD). “So they’ll have a cool dad and a cool grand-dad.”

Darrent, a Wyatt High graduate, was shot and killed Jan. 1, 2007, in Denver, hours after playing the final game of his second NFL season. He was 24, and out with friends and teammates at a nightclub, celebrating the New Year.

Darius, then 7 years old and at home in Fort Worth, knows an argument happened between Darrent’s group and another group at the club.

He knows Darrent’s group then left the club, piling into a stretch Hummer limousine. And he knows his dad died in that limousine, struck by a bullet from a drive-by shooter.

What remained murky - at least to Darius and his mother, Tierria Leonard - is why the altercation at the club, however it started, ended with Darrent’s death.

A conviction took three years to come, and when it did, Willie Clark was found guilty “almost exclusively” by testimony from his fellow Denver gang members, who turned on him after they were indicted on federal crack cocaine charges, the Denver Post reported.

Clark was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,152 years.

“He’s in jail,” Darius said, “but he’s still alive and my dad isn’t.”

Long before Clark went to prison, Darrent was buried behind a statue of Jesus at Fort Worth’s Laurel Land Memorial Park.

For Darius, his sister, Jaelyn, and his mother, life went on as normally as it could.

Darius kept playing football, wearing his dad’s No. 27. He switched to No. 4 in middle school - 27 was taken - but now wears a blue bracelet with his dad’s name and number in orange letters.

This year, he made varsity. After injuring his shoulder, he returned for the team’s third game and saw time at cornerback and punt returner, like his dad.

He’s short (5 feet 7 inches) like Darrent (5 feet 8 inches), but Heights coach Phil Young said Darius “plays with an edge.”

“Next year, it’ll really be a battle between the coaches to which side (of the ball) gets him,” Young said, “because he’s so quick.”

He’s not as fast his dad yet - Darrent ran the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds, a speed rarely reached.

“But I think I have a heart like he did,” he said. “I like coming down and hitting people, playing physical. Just still working on the speed part.”

Off the field, NFL Network replays and an old video game are the few connections he has to Darrent’s career. He was the son of an NFL player, and then he wasn’t.

“I probably wouldn’t even be down here now,” he said. “I’d probably be up in Denver, or somewhere else if he got traded. Who knows?”

Darius said he asked two of Darrent’s Fort Worth friends who were in the limo about the shooting. They refused to talk about it.

Darius recently contacted Javon Walker, one of Darrent’s teammates in the limo, through Instagram, and Walker responded. Darius gave Walker his mom’s number. Leonard hasn’t heard from him yet, and if she never does, she’ll understand.

“It really messed him up,” she said.

Brandon Marshall, another Bronco player out with Darrent that night, testified in 2010 that he may have “escalated” the conflict with Clark.

But Darius never reached Marshall, who signed a $26 million contract with the New York Jets in May.

Leonard, who works as a payroll manager at the Fort Worth Naval Air Station, has as many questions as her son.

“I listened to all the evidence,” she said. “All it did for me was open more unanswered questions.”

Darrent’s high school coach at Wyatt, Anthony Criss, followed the trial and testimonies from Texas.

“You always have that question, ‘What really happened?’” said Criss, now the coach at Arlington Sam Houston. “I try not to think about it. I just remember that smile. I remember him running a 4.41 (40-yard dash) in socks when he was a freshman.”

After Clark’s conviction, Darrent’s mother, Rosalind Williams, told reporters, “We’ll never know what happened that night.”

Darius wonders if that’s true. And he wonders how it all would be different.

___

Information from: Fort Worth Star-Telegram, http://www.star-telegram.com

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