April 07, 2003
RED DEER, Alta. (CP)
Henry (Gizmo) Williams had no trouble breaking Canadian Football League records but admits he canít conquer a disease that wiped out his family.
The former Edmonton Eskimo told a recent conference on chronic illness that he sometimes feels he has multiple sclerosis.
"Iíve seen what my family has gone through with MS. Iíve seen the process ó how they start shaking, they lose their voice, theyíre bedridden," said Williams.
But he wonít be tested to see if he has MS, an incurable disease of the central nervous system.
"If you have something and there is no cure, why worry about it? You canít worry about things you canít control."
Williams returned 1,002 punts for 11,134 yards and 333 kickoffs for 7,291 yards and two touchdowns. Both are CFL records.
He credits his "God-given" athletic talent with helping him survive a challenged life in the black ghetto of Memphis, Tenn.
His family was devastated by misfortune. First his mother died when Williams was five. A year later, his father died in a house fire.
Since then, seven of his 10 siblings have died from MS. Another brother was shot to death in Memphis and a sister died of a drug overdose.
Williams was raised by an older brother who eventually died, and then by an aunt who struggled to keep the family out of the welfare system.
"Nobody in my family lived to be over 38. Iím 39."
His secret to success and survival is believing in himself and leaving the past behind. Above all, he doesnít worry because "stress beats you down."
"Everyone has a disease in life. Donít use it as an excuse not to live life," said Williams, a father of two sons who have tested negative for MS.
"As hard as it has been, I would never use my mother, father and brothers as an excuse."
Williams became a professional football player in 1983 with the Memphis Showboats. He then joined the Eskimos in Edmonton where he made a name for himself in football and in the community. He raised millions for community groups.
Williams was speaking Saturday at the first symposium on
multiple sclerosis in Red Deer. The conference was sponsored by the MS
Society of Canadaís Central Alberta Chapter.
© 2003 Fort Frances Times Ltd