Does she deserve it?
I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked that question over the last few days, weeks and months.
It often came after a well-meaning compliment about my former co-worker Charean Williams having her name forever etched in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as the Dick McCann Award winner for 2018.
“That’s great for Charean. But does she deserve it?”
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It happened again this morning as I was leaving my Cowboys training camp hotel in Ventura, California, and going to get breakfast and a haircut.
Williams being honored as the McCann winner by the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) in recognition of a long and distinguished reporting career in the field of pro football along with the other Hall of Fame inductees in Canton, Ohio, this weekend is proof that we have come a long way.
She was honored during the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinees’ Gold Jacket Dinner in Canton on Friday. She will receive the award during the 2018 Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony on Saturday.
Still, the questions being asked in some circles about her candidacy, as well as the absence of any African American reporters on the list, show that we still have a long way to go.
As the first woman to be named a McCann winner since the award’s inception in 1967, Williams is a pioneer.
And deservedly so, considering she was the first woman to be named President of the Pro Football Writers of America and the first woman to become a Hall of Fame voter in 2007.
Williams has been a selector for the past 12 Hall of Fame election cycles and is a member of the Hall’s Contributor Selection Committee.
Williams is no longer just voting on candidates. She is in the room now and no one can ever take that way.
“I never made a block or tackle or threw a touchdown pass, but I love the game every bit as much as the 318 men in the Hall, and I hope that showed in my writing,” Williams said.
This wasn’t a journey that started with the purpose of breaking down walls or barriers. It’s really about a little girl who fell in love with football and wouldn’t let anyone or anything get in the way of her living out her now historic destiny.
Forget deserves. This blessing was ordained on the playgrounds and schoolyards of Beaumont, Texas, years ago.
It was initially rooted in her love for the Dallas Cowboys.
“When I was in the second grade, I asked my teacher how far it was to Dallas,” Williams recalls now. “Cindy Bridges answered, ‘About 300 miles, a five-hour drive. Why do you want to know?’ Because I am going to marry Roger Staubach.”
The amazed teacher called the local newspaper and The Beaumont Enterprise wrote a story on this girl’s love of Hall of Fame quarterback Staubach and the Cowboys.
“I mentioned how I wanted to cover the Cowboys when I grew up,” Williams said. “To that end, I would practice my play-by-play on my metal swingset, pulling off the rubber cap so I could hear my voice reverberate.”
Williams became legendary on the playgrounds for her knowledge of the Cowboys and the game of football. Boys would ask her to settle arguments regarding rules, stats or players’ jersey numbers.
It was just how it was.
So growing up and actually becoming a sportswriter who began covering the NFL at the Orlando Sentinel before coming to the Star-Telegram for 17 years and now spending the last two with Pro Football Talk was simply nature taking its course.
As a kid, Williams wanted to marry Staubach. As an adult, she chronicled the careers of Cowboys quarterbacks Troy Aikman, Tony Romo and now Dak Prescott.
There were hardships and obstacles as the only female in the room, in the press box or at dinner when “guy talk” often ruled the day.
But Williams’ presence never felt forced or seemed out of place. She can hold her own in any setting.
It was not just about being a writer and telling the stories of the game.
It was about her knowledge, information and the connections she made as well as a confidence and fearlessness that knows no gender.
The sight of her telling former Cowboys running back Marion Barber that he was going to be fined $25,000 for not making himself available to the media by using sign language is a moment I will never forget. She repeatedly flashed 2 and 5 with both her hands in his face.
Well, that and her weekly arguments with former Star-Telegram columnist Randy Galloway over calls and penalties. Just like on the playground, she was right and he was often wrong.
Again, forget deserves. This is about destiny.
This is her rightful place and rightful honor.
Williams is “in the room” forever.
My only regret is that I wasn’t there to celebrate it with her, my favorite Texas A&M Fighting Aggie.