Former NFLer Williams looking to reignite career with Argos after 3 suspensions

TORONTO — Karlos Williams isn’t coming to the CFL with a chip on his shoulder.

But he does have something to prove — to himself.

The six-foot-one, 225-pound running back signed with the Toronto Argonauts this week. It came after the CFL club granted James Wilder Jr., Williams’ good friend and former Florida State and Buffalo Bills teammate, his release.

Williams last played football in 2015 with Buffalo, where he made a significant impact as a rookie before his career was derailed by three suspensions for violating the league’s substance abuse policy for marijuana use.

The most recent suspension was a year-long ban handed down June 28, 2017. The NFL reinstated Williams last February.

“There’s no chip and here’s why,” Williams said. “My mission was to be reinstated.

“People who don’t know me personally don’t know how it works to live fast, make a lot of money and be pushed into the spotlight. Not everybody is used to it. It hit me fast and I wanted to enjoy it but I think I enjoyed it too much. I’ve been given an opportunity … it may work out, it may not but I am truly blessed and thankful to sign with Toronto.”

A converted safety at Florida State, Williams ran for 1,419 yards and 22 TDs in 26 games over his final two seasons, helping the Seminoles win the ‘14 NCAA crown. That year, Williams was investigated by Tallahassee, Fla., police in an alleged domestic abuse case but no charges were filed.

Williams went in the fifth round, No. 155 overall, of the 2015 NFL draft to Buffalo. He tied an NFL record with TDs in his first six games en route to rushing for 517 yards (5.6-yard average) and seven touchdowns while adding 11 catches for 96 yards and two scores.

But Buffalo released Williams in August 2016 after he reported to camp overweight. Williams cited his poor conditioning on being supportive of his pregnant fiancee.

“I like to eat and her being pregnant gave me an excuse to eat,” Williams said. “She’d wake up in the middle of the night and I wasn’t going to sit there and watch her eat alone because I didn’t want her to feel bad.”

Williams’ issues compounded when the NFL suspended him for four games that same year after testing positive for marijuana use. He joined the Pittsburgh Steelers practice roster Oct. 11, 2016 but received a second ban for 10 games weeks later.

He re-signed with Pittsburgh following the suspension but was released less than two months later. In June 2017, Williams received the year-long penalty.

“I got myself reinstated by being clean and I’ve been clean since,” Williams said. “It’s proving to myself I can still do it.

“I believe in myself that I can stay clean and play football.”

Williams — whose older brother, Vince, is a defensive tackle with the Steelers — isn’t concerned about succumbing to temptation in Canada, where pot use is legal.

“I wanted to stop, I wanted to prove to people I could go without and I’ve done that,” he said. “I don’t think there’ll be an issue.”

Williams isn’t the first running back with pot issues to come to Toronto. Former Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams, also a running back, spent the ‘06 season with the Argos while serving a season-long NFL suspension for marijuana use.

The league later adopted “The Ricky Williams Rule,” which prevents CFL teams from signing players under NFL suspension.

Toronto also has a history of giving troubled NFLers a second chance. The 2004 Grey Cup-winning team, coached by current GM Mike (Pinball) Clemons, featured receivers Robert Baker, Andre Rison and R. Jay Soward, who all had off-field issues prior to joining the Argos or during their tenure.

“His skillset and short but exceptional professional resume is compelling,” Clemons said of Karlos Williams. “But his passion to bounce back is what makes this signing so compelling.”

Williams said his story revolves around a young man getting swept up in a glamorous lifestyle.

“Life happened fast,” Williams said. “Being a knucklehead and having a lot of money … I made some bad choices.

“I suffered a concussion (in Buffalo) and chose to self medicate and that led to a bad habit of usage. I haven’t played football since 2016 (when released by Pittsburgh) and it was something I had to grow up from and go through. But I’ve grown up.”

Williams currently works at Victory Home Repair, a remodelling business in his hometown of Davenport, Fla. He’s also been diligent in having a presence in the lives of his eight children.

“I’ve realized I’m not just a football player,” he said. “I’m a father, I’m a soon-to-be husband, I can use my hands to make money, I can use my hands to build things for myself and other people.

“Chasing a child’s dream is what I call football. Being able to have a real job and provide for your family and take care of your wife and kids, that’s important.”

Williams currently lives with his finance and their three children — daughters Kylie, 5, and Koda, who turns two next month, and son Kason, 3. He’s also close with his other five kids — three boys living in Pittsburgh and two other boys in Orlando, Fla.

“The three mothers of my kids do a great job, my hat goes off to them,” Williams said. “My kids are split up but they know their siblings, they love each other and when they get together it’s a great time.

“Sometimes you have to give up chasing the childhood dream to accomplish the major goal, which is just being a great dad and providing for your family.”

Williams says his children are his greatest joy.

“The proudest moments of my life were the days my kids were born,” he said. “Seeing them looking into their father’s eyes and just knowing I’m responsible for this person is something you can’t replace.

“My kids give me life. It’s not easy, I can say I’m not always the best dad, I’m not always available because my kids are spread out but I do the best I can and my kids know their dad loves them.”

Williams will return to FSU next month to finish his sociology degree and follow in the footsteps of his three older siblings — a sister and two brothers — who’ve all earned at least one college degree. Williams hopes to put that to use teaching and coaching high-school football.

“We all have kids now,” Williams said. “It’s important we set that standard of going to school and graduating from college.”

Williams served as the offensive co-ordinator this season at Ridge Community High School, his alma mater in Davenport. But Williams said coaching is more than just Xs and Os, it’s being able to share his story with young players and help them and their families with the college recruiting process.

“Yeah, I missed the game — Hall of Famers miss the game — but I’ve got closer to it,” he said. “To be able to tell your story each and every day is pretty cool because those young guys want to learn and soak up as much football knowledge as possible.”

Clemons credits John Murphy, Toronto’s vice-president of football operations, with the patient pursuit of Williams. Williams was surprised to hear from the Argos, who reached out to him shortly after he appeared on a radio podcast.

“I guess someone was listening,” Williams said. “I don’t know much (about the CFL) but I know guys there like Marcus Tucker (a receiver with Hamilton) and James Wilder Jr.

“I know it’s competitive football and many people take a lot of pride in it.”

Williams said he’s very capable of contributing as a receiver in Canada.

“I’ve got hands, definitely,” he said. “Football is football in my mind and I’ve been good at football since I was a child.

“I know I’ve been away from football but I’ve had time to reflect on life and kind of get away from living fast in the NFL. I can see the CFL is more focused on the actual football side of life … and like I say, it’s all about the opportunity.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sarah Tittemore, interim chair of the city’s systems leadership team, announces the start-up of a one-year pilot project. A Social Diversion team will be dispatched to deal with non-emergency disturbances in the city through making a 211 call. (Screenshot by Advocate staff).
New Social Diversion team starts up in Red Deer to deal with non-emergency disturbances

A nurse and social services expert will be deployed to assist after calling 211

Sgt. Andrew Harnett, 37, of the Calgary Police Service is shown inthis undated handout image provided by the police service. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Calgary Police Service
Bail hearing continues today for teen accused in Calgary officer’s hit-and-run death

CALGARY — A bail hearing for a teen accused in the hit-and-run… Continue reading

President Donald Trump speaks near a section of the U.S.-Mexico border wall, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, in Alamo, Texas. (Delcia Lopez/The Monitor via AP)
Trump bids farewell to Washington, hints of comeback

‘We will be back in some form’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a news conference in Ottawa, Friday, January 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada in touch with Biden admin about disputed oil pipeline

Premier Jason Kenney says ‘rescinding the Keystone XL border crossing permit would damage the Canada-US bilateral relationship’

B.C. to still administer second doses despite loss of Pfizer shipment next week: Dix

VANCOUVER — British Columbia’s health minister says the province is still on… Continue reading

A view of the stage on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, ahead of the 59th Presidential Inauguration on Wednesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Susan Walsh, Pool
Canadians tune in to Joe Biden inauguration amid pandemic threat, violence concerns

TORONTO — Canadians tuned in Wednesday with a mixture of relief and… Continue reading

The constituency office of Derek Sloan, Conservative MP for Hastings-Lennox and Addington is show in Belleville, Ont., on Tuesday Jan. 19, 2021. Sloan says he’ll fight efforts by his party’s leader to boot him from caucus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg
Expelling Derek Sloan from Conservative caucus not entirely up to Erin O’Toole

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole wants Derek Sloan booted out of… Continue reading

Early morning fire destroys grocery and retail store in Igloolik, Nunavut

A fire has destroyed a grocery and retail store in Igloolik, Nunavut.… Continue reading

Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux waits to appear before the Commons finance committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday March 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
PBO says reformed fiscal stabilization program to cost Ottawa $4.5 billion

OTTAWA — Reforms to a federal support program for provinces will nearly… Continue reading

Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem takes part in a news conference at the Bank of Canada in Ottawa on December 15, 2020. Canada’s central bank will update its economic forecast for the country that will offer a window when it expects a recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic to take hold. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Bank of Canada keeps key rate at 0.25 per cent, warns of economic decline in 2021

OTTAWA — The Bank of Canada says the national economy will go… Continue reading

President-elect Joe Biden speaks during a COVID-19 memorial, with lights placed around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Sighs of relief accompany a sense of unease as Biden takes oath, Trump departs D.C.

WASHINGTON — Relief, apprehension and a touch of pandemic-tinged festivity washed over… Continue reading

FIL - In this Nov. 7, 2020, file photo Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks in Wilmington, Del. Harris will make history Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, when she becomes the nation’s first Black, South Asian and female vice president. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
Vice-President Harris: A new chapter opens in US politics

Harris moves into the vice presidency just four years after arriving in Washington as a California senator

Most Read