The life of M. Quentin Williams reads like something out of a supercharged piece of fiction. The difference is it is real, and it could not be more relevant than it is today.
Williams and his brother were raised in a tough upbringing by a Caucasian mother in Yonkers, and after a standout career at Gorton High School, he went on to captain the Boston College football team during the Doug Flutie era. He built a relationship with coach Tom Coughlin which led to a senior position with the Jacksonville Jaguars for the former Giants coach, and that led to a role with the National Football League leading community programs, a stint as team president for the North Charleston Lowgators, of what was then the NBA D League (Now the G League), time at law school at St. John’s University, a period representing NFL players in their contracts, time as an FBI agent and professor back at his alma mater, St. John’s, and his role today as the founder and chief executive officer of the nonprofit organization Dedication to Community (D2C); a community advocacy program that engages middle school through college students, law enforcement, and community groups and inmates as audiences for building strong professional relationships and making positive, healthy and rational life choices.
It is in his current role where the current resident of Charlotte, North Carolina is making his biggest play; working with law enforcement, the community and a growing number of athletes, and potentially leagues and teams, in building bridges in the community to inspire social change and understanding. Whether that comes from more community participation, athletes and coaches kneeling in unison or other actions, Williams preaches listening and action, and the time for the former BC star to help lead that change is now.
“Without action, we will not have change, and without change we will have a deeper problem,” Williams told Bill King of Sports Business Journal this week. “Right now, society is not going to permit us to move forward without an action plan. This is the tipping point. This is an inflection point. This is pivotal. Whatever you want to call it. This is important.”
It is the ability to have communities listen, Williams believes, which will help lead all of that change, and sports, and leadership will be at the top of that chain as games return to the field, ice and court in the coming months following the suspension of play due to COVID 19. On the listening side, Williams can point to his former coach at BC and boss at the Jaguars as someone who listened and evolved as a leader and into a Super Bowl champion with the Giants. Coughlin went from being an old school hard knocks coach to one who inspired change in the locker room during his time with Big Blue by listening to a new breed of players and then adapting some, not all, of his policies. The result was a Hall of Fame career with a legion of players regardless of color, following the coach’s example.
Today, the example is hoping to be led by Williams, who in addition to his FBI time was also a prosecutor, and he believes his collective experience can play a valuable role in uniting and understanding a community in global turmoil right now. “Athletes will help lead this change,” he said on a recent CBS Sports Radio show, JR Sportsbrief. “The share of voice and their understanding of the communities from which they come is going to be invaluable in the coming weeks. We have already seen athletes step up and want to lead change, and I believe this is just the beginning. Our goal is to make sure that the listening comes along with the meaningful protesting, and out of that listening comes a unified approach to make us better. Sports can heal and draw attention, and there is no better time to do that than now.”
Of our local teams, the Yankees were the latest to take a stand with a statement for change on Monday. Although a few others, the Knicks and Rangers, have still yet to align themselves for change, Williams work with programs, and athletes like the McCourty twins (whose NFL careers started at St. Joseph’s high school in Montvale, NJ) has already begun to bear fruit, from local initiatives in Westchester to large scale programs with multijurisdictional agencies. The transitional success will be using a team-first mentality to build change and unify.
And that team first mentality started on the local gridiron, now gaining steam in a global community for an athlete turned litigator turned leader.