Things got so bad in Little Rock, in 1993 the city had the highest per-capita murder rate in the U.S. Gang leaders and drug dealers had fled to Arkansas to escape the efforts of narcotics offers in places like New York, L.A. and Chicago. DeAngelo had a fleeting interest in that world, but his single-mindedness paid off in the form of an NCAA all-purpose yardage record (7,337) and the hope of a top-10 NFL draft position.

"He had some tough times," stepfather Odell Hill said, "but he worked hard and persevered through them. I'm the most proud of the fact that he stayed in school and came back for his senior year."

"The thing I'm most proud of is that he doesn't take it for granted," Sandra Hill added. "I lost three sisters to breast cancer … and had my own battle too. I think DeAngelo sees that life is short and you have to appreciate every day. We're taking this process one day at a time. After the game he's going to fly back home and start interviewing agents."

"He's looking for somebody without a lot of clients," Odell said. "Somebody that will be on the other end of the line if he calls at midnight and needs them."

Odell Hill was clutching a cell phone, which he opened and clapped shut periodically. The process -- the interviews, the senior year, the agents, etc. -- seemed to be wearing on him. Sandra, however, seemed to be enjoying every moment. I asked her what she leaned on, when she was going through her losses and her own battle with breast cancer. And what she leans on now, with NFL dollars on the horizon.

"I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me," she says. "It's in 1 Corinthians -- look it up."

I will, I think, because she is a mom, and moms know best.

By the end of the night, Williams had racked up 233 yards on 30 carries, to go with three scores in a 38-31 victory. The Memphis faithful cheered its boys heartily, and I got my story.

I glanced back at Sandra and Odell in their college jerseys, and as I walked back up the stairs to the upper deck to find my dad I fought back the urge to tell them that it will never be more fun than it is right now.

Ted Kluck is a frequent contributor to Page 2, and his first book, "Facing Tyson," will be released by the Lyons Press in 2006.

<<Prev Page 2 of 2        Single page view