About a month ago, Washington Legend Doug Williams was sitting on his couch watching TV in the evening when he received a phone call from Dr. Trayvean Scott.
"His name popped up, and I had no idea what he could have been calling about," Williams said. "And that's when he told me."
Scott, the Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics at Williams' alma mater, Grambling State University, was calling the Super Bowl-winning quarterback to tell him some special news: the football field inside Eddie G. Robinson Memorial Stadium on campus would be named after Williams and fellow GSU legend James "Shack" Harris during this year's Tigers' alumni homecoming weekend.
"It's a big honor, and I don't think it should be taken for granted," Williams said about the field naming decision.
A big honor fit for a man with a big impact on GSU history. As a four-year starter at Grambling from 1974-77, Williams led the Tigers to a 36-7 record and three Southwestern Athletic Conference champions. Other highlights from the quarterback's time in the Black & Yellow included two Black College Player of the Year honors and a fourth-place Heisman finish following his senior campaign.
After his standout college career, Williams went on to make waves in the NFL with both the Tampa Bay and Washington franchises. In 1988, he etched himself into sports history books with Washington's 42-10 win over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII. The signal-caller was named the game's MVP and became the first Black quarterback to win a Super Bowl.
Considering these accolades, it is no doubt fitting that Williams' name will join that of James "Shack" Harris inside Eddie G. Robinson Memorial Stadium. Harris, another decorated quarterback at Grambling, was also a trailblazer in the NFL. In his rookie season with the Bills, Harris became the first Black player to start a season at quarterback in the history of pro football. Though Williams and Harris did not overlap at GSU, the two forged a great friendship and talk almost every day.
"The last 15-20 years, we've become pretty inseparable," Williams said. "We talked about stuff that not everybody had experienced, and I think that's what made the bond so tight. And we started the Black College Football Hall of Fame, so we've done all that stuff together."
Both players explored other opportunities in football once hanging up their cleats. Williams pursued a career in coaching and found his way back to the campus in Louisiana that meant so much to him. The former quarterback had two stints as head coach of the Tigers from 1998-2003 and 2011-2013. Current Commander Trent Scott had the unique experience of playing under Williams. The offensive tackle said Williams had a "pivotal" influence on him and saw the larger impact William made at Grambling State.
"You knew you had a legend walking around campus, but he was still a humble guy, just looked out for everybody. His office was always open to us," Scott said. "I'm excited for him [to have his name on the field], because I was there and got to see how much he loved that school and that program."
The love for and from GSU has always manifested in a larger-than-life way at the several homecoming weekends Williams has been a part of as both a player and a coach. All the memories he has of reconnecting with other Tigers are just as sweet as winning in a packed house are
"I love going down and seeing a lot of guys that come back, a lot of them with their kids, and I get to bear hug them," Williams said with a smile. "You realize you might have helped some young men."
Countless numbers of people Williams has affected in some way will be present this weekend inside the stadium when he and James Harris are honored. As for the place and the company, the moment for Williams during the game will be unbeatable.
"I think it says something significant when they decide to put your name on the field," Williams said. "As a player and as a coach, that's not something that you go out looking for … It's an opportunity to leave something for your family, for a legacy."