Darrent Williams’ Smile Still Missed


Jan 19, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Confetti falls as Denver Broncos fans in the grandstands celebrate the victory over the New England Patriots during the 2013 AFC Championship football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Darrent Williams always flashed a bright smile.

It was an infectious smile – the kind you looked forward to seeing whenever the opportunity arose.

How much does Broncos Country miss that smile on what would have been his 32nd birthday?

I can’t help but contemplate the success the cornerback would have had playing next to Champ Bailey all of those years. I can’t help but wonder how good he would have become, and still would be, for the Denver Broncos in the prime of his career. No one would have worked harder.

At times, you marveled at how someone could always smile when there was no earthly reason to do so.

Williams must not have taken life too seriously if he was able to brush his blunders aside and joke about them like he always did. If you didn’t know better, you might have thought was an immature, spoiled kid who didn’t get it.

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Over time, you would come to realize this was a young man who was wise well beyond his 24 years. He was well spoken, eloquent, funny, encouraging and honest. If only more people had those special abilities.

I awoke that Monday morning in January 2007 with the same kind of smile Williams always had. I was eagerly anticipating what I just knew was going to be a great year. Then I heard the tragic, grind-at-your-heart-with-sandpaper news. Even now, I can’t quite comprehend it.

Williams had been shot and killed outside a Denver nightclub early that morning.

The second-year defensive back from Oklahoma State was dead.

My heart still sinks like a 10-pound weight in a fish tank when I think about it.

“All of us are devastated by this tragedy,” Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen said in a statement released by the team at the time. “To lose a young player, and more important, a great young man such as Darrent Williams, is incomprehensible. To lose him in such a senseless manner as this is beyond words. My deepest feelings, all my thoughts and prayers, go out to Darrent’s mother and family. The entire Broncos’ organization shares my grief. Darrent was a wonderful young man, and his passing is a great loss for his family, the Broncos and the city.”

Just eight hours earlier, Williams was a part of a disheartening 26-23 loss when the Broncos saw their season end to the 49ers. Denver was downtrodden; in utter disbelief its season was over.

The team had no idea another loss was just around the corner. The players didn’t know the cruel hand life would deal to one of their teammates, one of their brothers, only hours later.

“If this team is the heart of this city (Denver),” Broncos safety Nick Ferguson said in a statement, “then it is bleeding right now.”

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  • Whenever you wanted to hear the truth on the Broncos, you always sought out Williams. No, he wasn’t always successful, and he made his fair share of mistakes – which he admitted. But he always flashed that smile and told you the unfiltered truth.

    After a while, he started seeking me out to catch up and find out how I was doing. He would rib me for my, in his words, “weak attempt to look like (quarterback) Jake Plummer.”

    We became more than just a sportswriter and athlete who were forced to talk and be around each other.

    “Losing a fine young man such as Darrent Williams leaves me speechless with sadness,” Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said in a statement. “We all know that Darrent was an excellent player, but as a person, he was a first class young man who brightened every room with his smile, attitude and personality. I cannot express how heartsick I feel at this loss. All of our players and coaches are completely shocked by this terrible tragedy. And my deepest condolences go out to the entire Williams family.”

    The cruelest fate this world brings to a parent is having their child die before they do.

    I cannot imagine the grief and agony Williams’ mother and his entire family feel to this day.

    Almost eight years later, the world is still less bright without Williams in it.

    We miss him.

    We miss that smile.