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Joe Williams Shares Inspiring Story of Late Sister

Posted Apr 29, 2017

The San Francisco 49ers newest running back explains why the death of his sister led to his brief absence from the game of football and how he's now a stronger man.



We now have our most moving story of draft weekend.

Former Utah running back Joe Williams, who was taken by the San Franisco 49ers with the 121st overall pick, shared a heartfelt explanation as to why he briefly stepped away from football. Williams left the Utes program two games into the 2016 season. His absence lasted nearly a month before he returned against Oregon State on Oct. 15.

Upon being drafted in San Francisco, Williams bravely described the reason behind his decision and how it has helped him move forward from a traumatic family experience. Below is his unedited response to the question, "Why did you step away from football?"

"My sister had passed away in 2006 and pretty much, to put her story a little short, she actually died in my hands. It was, she died on Sunday, June 19th. She had been in and out of the hospital Friday to Saturday, and she had fell unconscious and after getting the autopsy reports, when I was taking care of her to and from her bed you know, that’s when she died in my hands. So, just the guilt and shame that I had put upon myself, because I didn’t act quickly enough for, you know, with my parents or to call 9-1-1. I always thought that it was my fault. Going throughout high school and college I was getting counseling, but I always tried to manipulate the system, because it was hard for me to feel an adolescent at the time, that when your baby sister died it wasn’t your fault when you weren’t there.

"So, I really didn’t want to eat and take their advice and mourn the way I needed to. So, just coming into this season, a lot of the emotions were coming to the forefront and I was trying to deal with them the best way I could. And as the season started and I knew that my mental health wasn’t where it needed to be, I knew that the best option for me was to sit down in front of my wife and my coaches and just tell them where I was at. And we came to the decision that stepping back at that time would be for my best interest, not only for football but life after football. And I was on them for weeks and I got psychiatric help to get my life back in order you know, because at that time I was in shambles, but I did a lot of soul searching. I got my sister’s tattoo on my left arm, went and saw her at her grave, which is something that I didn’t do, you know, when I was actually at home in PA.

"So, I was just doing everything necessary to just finally come to that peace with her death. And the call came back after the Arizona game when a couple of running backs got hurt. And I knew I was good, because you know in some ways I had just so much more than what I did in 10 years. And above all that, I finally forgave myself. That was the biggest thing. And when I came back and you know and you guys will see the tape, I’m a completely different man."

More on his tattoo: “It just says 'My Sister’s Keeper' and it has her name Kylee and the date that she was born and the date that she passed away, and looking forward to finishing that tattoo, put her face on my shoulder. She was everything. She still is everything. She’s gone now and she’s just the chip on my shoulder that I use every day, gets me up out of the bed. It gets me to do, you know, focus on things that I’ve got to take care of in the next couple of days it will give me a jump start on my NFL career, to become the best running back I can be.”


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