Connor Williams, now at age 20, would seem an unlikely target of bullying.
The Texas Longhorns’ left tackle who is likely to be a first round pick in the NFL draft in April, however, was tormented by grade school classmates growing up in Coppell.
Williams wrote a long essay posted on NFL.com about growing up overweight and with a harsh speech impediment that made him the target of bullies.
“Honestly, I don’t know how I could have accomplished what I have so far without your teasing, without your isolation, without your rumor-mongering, your harassment, your beatings, your constant torment,” wrote Williams, who has declared for the NFL draft a year before his senior season.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Star-Telegram
Williams reveals how he struggled with a severe speech impediment as a young child and became the object of ridicule from other kids. He had trouble pronouncing his Rs.
“You laughed at me when I tried to say ‘girl,’ which always came out ‘gawl,’ which made me want to crawl under a rock and stay quiet. And many times I did,” he said. “I stuttered, stammered, and plain messed up any sound I attempted to push out of my mouth ... all I knew is that I had it and you were using it to make my life miserable.”
Williams’ large size as a kid was another point of attack from classmates.
“You made me feel like I wasn’t somebody I wanted to be. Looking in the mirror, I wasn’t proud of what I saw. I didn’t like being fat,” he said.
Williams earnest insistence throughout the essay that he holds no hard feelings and actually feels gratitude towards his bullies gets a little weird at times. Perhaps his “thank yous” to all the bullies in his youth come off a little more heavy handed than intended.
“You had no idea how much that broke my heart,” he writes of being left out of the “cool” cliques. “As humans, we have a need for companionship. And I was left alone. All alone.”
“I don’t hate you for it. And I don’t entirely blame you. We were kids, and kids do some pretty dumb things,” he said.
He gets very specific in parts of the essay, no doubt leaving some former classmates from Coppell squirming if they ever read it.
“Like the time in sixth grade when you invited me over to play airsoft wars in the backyard of one of your homes, with acres of open land near the creek. But all the fun ended when you took my pellet gun, pushed me to the ground, and started shooting at me until I cried,” he recalls. “Or the time two of you invited me for a sleepover in middle school, pretending to befriend me, only to beat me up, forcing my parents to come get me in the middle of the night.”
By the 7th grade, however, his athletic ability and slimmer body seem to have put the bullying in the past.
Towards the end of the post, the intensity of Williams’ appreciation (if that’s the appropriate word) for his childhood bullies grows.
“My gratitude is overflowing for all of you and everything ya’ll put me through during my formative years. My fear is that with this letter I will receive sympathy from you and others who read it. But I want none of that,” he wrote. “What you have done for me can never be repaid. While I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else, I most certainly wouldn’t be in the position I am without you.”