Football was a huge part of Perry Williams’ life for years. He was a high school football star in Richmond County before playing defensive back at NC State in the early 1980s. He went on to an 11-year career in the NFL, where he won two Super Bowl rings with the New York Giants.
But when Williams joins his teammates from the 1986 New York Giants team that won the Super Bowl for a reunion this weekend, it will be the first time he has talked to many of them in years. Williams has moved on from football since retiring from the NFL in 1994.
“I haven’t watched pro football since I retired,” he says. “Been there, done that, nothing left to prove.”
Williams is a senior lecturer on leadership and strategic planning at the Petrocelli College of Continuing Studies at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. Williams also runs an outreach program for the university, visiting elementary, middle and high schools in the metropolitan New York area to talk about life skills and character building. Williams earned a master’s degree in public administration from Fairleigh Dickinson while he was still in the NFL.
As if that wasn’t enough, Williams does a lot of corporate appearances as a motivational speaker and makes volunteer appearances at schools and churches.
And he still lives in the small town of Hamlet, North Carolina, where he grew up. He commutes to New Jersey for his university work and travels around the country for his motivational speaking. But he always returns home to Hamlet.
“You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy,” Williams says. “I lived 10 minutes from Giants Stadium for many years. But I don’t want to live up north.”
Williams is looking forward, though, to the reunion this weekend. Harry Carson, the captain of the team, has convinced virtually every player and coach from the 1986 team that beat the Denver Broncos, 39-20, in Super Bowl XXI to return for a weekend of dinners, golf outings and autograph shows.
“The big thing for me is being able to see guys I haven’t seen in over 20 years,” he says. “The team started going in different directions by 1988, so a lot of those guys weren’t with me when we went back to the Super Bowl in 1991.”
Williams, a defensive back, says 1986 was the kind of year football players dream about. Williams says the team got rolling after a dramatic comeback win against the Minnesota Vikings in the 11th game of the regular season.
“Our confidence built up from there, and the rest is history,” he says. “We got that mojo working and we never stopped.”
One of Williams’ teammates was former UNC linebacker Lawrence Taylor. Williams says he and Taylor made friendly wagers – $50 or so – when NC State and UNC played each other in football. NC State won six out of seven games in the rivalry during one stretch in those years, so Williams often had bragging rights.
“He paid me gas money for six years or so,” Williams says.
Williams’ greatest memories from the Super Bowl may have not been from the game itself, but from running onto the field at the Rose Bowl after being introduced as part of the starting defense and then when the game was finally over.
“There was a sigh of great relief, I finally did it,” he said. “Knowing that you’re the world champion, a boy from Hamlet, North Carolina.”