MSU DL Raequan Williams Has Great Ideas for Combating Gun Violence Epidemic

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If you want Media Day pablum, then you have come to the wrong place.

For “we could be the best position group in the conference, and among the best in the country,” “I’m just blessed to be here/I’m so blessed,” “we try to get better today than we were yesterday” and other assorted meaningless word salad you can go elsewhere.

When you have a conversation with Michigan State senior defensive lineman Raequan Williams, a tremendously inspiring individual, you should focus on deeper, more important matters that go beyond football.

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Because he is a man who has overcome issues that transcend football, and he’s destined to achieve greatness in life well beyond the gridiron.

The Founding Director of  Williams’ youth football team, the Garfield Park Gators, says eight of his former players have been killed from gun violence during his 15 years in charge. It hits even closer to home for Williams, as he’s lost two family members to the gun violence epidemic.

His younger brother, Corey Hill, was shot and killed in June 2017 in the Garfield Park neighborhood on Chicago’s west side. A little more than a year earlier. Antonio Pollards, a cousin that Williams considered to be like a brother, was also gunned down, at a spot in close proximity to where Hill died.

As one would naturally expect, gun violence is an issue near and dear to the heart of Williams, and he’s passionate about trying to find a solution.

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“Way too many guns out there, we definitely need to change that, I feel like that’s the biggest thing right now” the DePaul College Prep alumnus and Chicago native said in his hometown last week.

“We definitely need to change that- all this gun violence and everything, and that only comes from guidance. You give a little more guidance and give people a direction to go, I feel like.”

When asked what is quite possibly the hardest question in the history of Big Ten Media Days, “How can we go about trying solve the epidemic of gun violence that plagues are country, Williams said:

“That’s a tough one. I know there’s a lot of people out there still working on stuff like this. It’s not an easy answer, because if it was easy I feel like it would have happened.”

“I feel like to help the gun violence situation, right here, right now. I feel you have to put mentors out for people to have a direction to go, everybody groups with something, if you give them a group to go with I feel like it would help a lot.”

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Williams hails from the west side neighborhood of Garfield Park, one of the most dangerous and violent crime-stricken zip codes in the city. He is a big believer in the community organization known as Breakthrough, whose mission is to make East Garfield Park a safer and more stable community; and help those who live there along on the path to success in life.

He named Breakthrough owner Bill Curry as his primary community mentor.

“I look up to him because he was one of those guys I grouped myself with to get out of the neighborhood,” said the fifth year Spartan who passed on the opportunity to enter the NFL Draft this year and instead come back to East Lansing.

“It gave me enough time to at least stay alive long enough to make it out.”

Williams was asked what people who have never been to Garfield Park should know and understand about the neighborhood.

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“When I think about it, I honestly don’t know how I did it (stayed out of trouble and got out),” he answered.

“The challenge is so many people pulling you in so many different directions, and there are so many ways to be wrong, and only one way to be right.”

And Raequan Williams is a person who stands as an example of how to be right; in many ways. A projected NFL First round pick, he’s as humble and approachable as you’ll ever find, among superstar college athletes.

“He’s going to take time to care for people,” said his defensive line mate Kenny Willekes.

“He’s looking out for the underdog, the guy that needs help, the guy that’s struggling and he’s going to do whatever  he can to help them get to where they want to go.”

Added Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio: “He is a tremendous person, a very caring person, outstanding athlete.” He’s a giver and a light. He will do great things in his life beyond football.”

“I just want you to know,” Dantonio said on dais, during the televised portion of Media Days (repeating a talking point he said at last year’s media days, during the non-televised breakout sessions), “his goal and his vision is to be the mayor of Chicago. We look forward to his campaign.”

However, this isn’t exactly true.

“I never once told coach D. I wanted to be a mayor. I don’t where he got that from, but I appreciate thinking I have the character to be mayor and that I’m a great person,” Williams said, before not entirely ruling out the idea someday down the line.

“I could see myself being a mayor, doing it, wanting to fix a lot of problems in my hometown, but I haven’t given too much consideration to it.”

Adversity is a word that gets thrown around way too much in sports, and 99% of the time it’s egregiously misused. Williams has overcome real, true adversity, and because of that the sky is truly the limit to what he can achieve in life.

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“You have to make the right moral decision every day if you want to make it from the place I came from,” Raequan Williams summated.

“The place I came from, you can just say yes to a situation and end up dead. I’m very blessed to make it out.”

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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