Resilient by Nature


Reggie Williams is


Reginald Williams was born on September 19, 1954 in Flint, Michigan. The son of Elijah and Julia Williams. Williams was a star athlete and student at Flint Southwestern High School. He played competitive football and also wrestled. As a junior, he played linebacker, but switched to fullback his senior year.  The recipient of an academic scholarship, Williams was a three-time All-Ivy League linebacker in football and Ivy League heavyweight wrestling champion in 1975 at Dartmouth College, graduating in 1976 with an A.B. in psychology.


– Reggie Williams


In 1976, Williams was drafted in the third round by the Cincinnati Bengals, for whom he played 14 seasons, (including two Super Bowls, XVI (1981) and XXIII (1988)).

Williams recorded 16 interceptions and 23 fumble recoveries, still a franchise record. During his career Williams amassed 62.5 sacks, the second most in the team’s history. In his final two seasons with Cincinnati, he was appointed to an open seat on the Cincinnati City Council in 1988 and was elected for a second term in 1989 on the Charter Party ticket.


Williams has received numerous honors, including selection to the NFL All-Rookie Team (1976), the Byron “Whizzer” White Award for Humanitarian Service (1985), and the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award (1986). He was also named Co-Sportsman of the Year in 1987 by Sports Illustrated.


He is a member of the Greater Flint Area Sports Hall of Fame, the Greater Flint Afro-American Hall of Fame, and the College Football Hall of Fame. Williams served three years on the Cincinnati City Council.


After retiring from the NFL, Williams joined the World League of American Football as the Vice President/General Manager of the New York/New Jersey Knights. He later rejoined the NFL, where he conceived and opened the NFL’s first Youth Education Town (YET) in Los Angeles.


Williams was hired as director of sports development for Disney on April 19, 1993. In the mid-1990s, he oversaw the creation of Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex, a state-of-the-art 220-acre (0.89 km2) multi-sport facility that opened on March 28, 1997 and hosts more than 180 athletic events annually in some 30 sports. By 1998, he had become Vice President of Disney Sports Attractions, where he oversaw a newly created sports and recreation division that merged Walt Disney World Resort Recreation, Water Parks, and Disney Sports Attractions. The latter included Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex, the Walt Disney World Speedway, and Walt Disney World Golf. Williams retired from Disney in November 2007, stepping down to focus on rehabilitating his legs from damage sustained during his playing NFL career.


This amazing memoir follows the story of Reggie Williams—ex-NFL linebacker, former Disney executive, renaissance man, and the epitome of determination in the face of extreme challenges.


In so many ways, Reggie Williams has had the type of life that people dream of: he starred as an athlete, excelled with an Ivy League education, built a sports empire as part of an iconic corporate brand, achieved global impact as a public servant, and won major honors for his community work. Along the way, Williams glowed on the biggest stages alongside celebrities, business leaders, and social icons.


Yet Williams’s life has also presented a nightmare—and a determined mission to score another victory—with the battle to save his right leg from amputation. The residual effects of a fourteen-year career as an NFL linebacker has challenged Williams—who has undergone twenty-eight surgeries for football injuries, including multiple knee replacement operations—to draw on the resilience that has been at the foundation of his rise from the beginning.


In Resilient by Nature, Williams provides an intimate account of his remarkable journey while also sharing his unique perspectives on a wide variety of issues


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Speaking topics:

  • Leadership
  • Overcoming Challenges
  • Building Successful Teams
  • Pursuing Dreams
  • Mentoring
  • Failure is not an Option