/RIP Gentle Ben Williams, who broke football color line at Ole Miss, became ‘Colonel Rebel’

RIP Gentle Ben Williams, who broke football color line at Ole Miss, became ‘Colonel Rebel’

Carmody stated, “When Ben Williams was on a football field and the game was going on, there wasn’t one thing gentle about his character.” He was a savage. He was a bit mean on the field. He was a dominant player at Ole Miss. Let me tell you another thing about Ben. He was a great guy and one of my favourite people that I ever coached.” Robert Jerry Williams, an African American football player at Ole Miss, has died. Williams was one of the most important defensive players in school history. He was 65. James Reed from Meridian and Williams, a Yazoo City native, were the first African Americans to be recruited to Ole Miss’ football team in 1971. Williams was a remarkable athlete with speed and quickness, as well as his brute strength. He played in the 1972 season as a freshman, 10 years after James Meredith had integrated the university during a riot. Williams was a freshman when he started, and he was All-SEC for the next three years. He was also All-American as an senior. This will tell you a lot about Ben Williams. In 1976, as a senior, he was elected “Colonel Rebel”, which is equivalent to Mr. Ole Miss by the student body. Carmody stated that his teammates and coaches loved him. He was also very popular on campus. Only the people who had to face him were those who did not love him.” Roger Parkes, a Jackson dentist, was a junior football player at Ole Miss. Reed and Williams signed with the Rebels, making them the last SEC university to break the color line in football. Parkes stated that while both James and Ben were great players and good men, Ben was the one who made the most of the field. He was a physically superior man. He was not going to be stopped by one man. Sometimes, it took two people. “He threw people around as rag dolls.” It turned out that Williams was more qualified than he thought. Williams was respected for his exceptional playing abilities and his calm, off-the-field demeanor. Carmody stated that people talk about Williams’ physical abilities and his ability to throw people around. He was also a skilled player. He was a hard worker. He was able to use his forearms and hands. He listened. He wanted to learn. He was determined to become the best he could. His efforts were always outstanding,” Carmody, who was a coach at Ole Miss twice as well as at Mississippi State twice and Southern Miss twice as defensive coordinator, said that Williams and Jerald baylis, a nose guard at USM, were two of the best college players he had ever coached. Williams was drafted in the third round by the Buffalo Bills as a fourth-rounder in 1976. He was named first team All American in 1976 as a senior. As the defensive line coach for the Bills, Carmody was with Williams in 1982. In 1983, Williams was named to the Pro Bowl. Williams and Carmody, both members of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, shared a long-standing joke. Carmody stated that Ben always said to me that he made me the coach that I am. “Players such as Ben can make any coach a better one. He was not All American until he was at Ole Miss, and All-Pro until he went to Buffalo. “We had a lot to laugh about that,” Carmody said. He only attended one basketball game during his time at Ole Miss in two different tenures. Carmody stated, “Didn’t you hear about Ben wrestling a bear at halftime in a basketball game?” “That’s why i went to the basketball game to see Ben wrestle that Bear. It was funny, actually. Ben could not get the bear to go, and the bear wouldn’t let Ben go. It was a close call. Afterward, Ben said to me, “Coach, that bear smelled terrible.” It was horrible. He said that he didn’t have anything to worry about because the bear did not have any teeth. Carmody stated that Williams’ popularity among teammates carried over to both the NFL and the Buffalo Bills. Williams, who had 45.5 sacks, retired in 1985 from the Bills as the team’s all-time leading sacks scorer. Carmody stated that Ben was on the same defensive team as Sherman White and Fred Smerlas, who were two truly great players. Jim Haslett, later Saints coach, was one of those linebackers. Carmody stated that a group of these guys visited Jackson several years ago to spend time with Ben during his health problems. We played golf, then went to Tico’s for a huge steak dinner. Ben was the only one who ate at that dinner. Many of these guys had traveled a great distance to get there. This is how much they respected Ben.”