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    Roland Williams on "unleashing your champion"

    November 18, 2014


    Proud SU alumnus, Roland Williams ’96, visited the Syracuse University Los Angeles (SULA) center on Nov. 17, 2014 to speak to students participating in the SULA Semester.

    Williams, who majored in speech communications at SU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) and studied public relations at the graduate level at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, went on to play for eight seasons as a tight end in the National Football League (NFL), winning Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000 as a member of the Saint Louis Rams.

    Williams has since gone on to engage in public speaking and has dedicated much of his time to charitable work. He recently founded the Champion Academy, a mentoring and empowerment initiative in his hometown of Rochester, NY.

    Greeting the SULA students with energy and excitement, Williams explained the keys to “unleashing your champion” and offered valuable advice on life after college.

    Williams assured students that no matter what they want to do in life, his five ingredients to living like a champion – belief, honesty, courage, teamwork and perseverance – will help them get there.


    The former NFL player admitted that he came from a disadvantaged neighborhood but that his father had faith in him. After receiving a full scholarship to attend Syracuse University to play football, Williams was determined to make the most of his experience.

    Belief is a key aspect of his life that Williams attributes to his success. His father believed in him and he had belief in himself that he could make it to the NFL and to eventually win a Super Bowl.

    “I started working out and started to believe that I could be great,” he said. “Sometimes that’s all it takes.”


    Williams explained that the most successful people in the world are honest with themselves about what they are directly in control of versus what is simply not in their hands. Being truly honest means recognizing this in order to constructively focus your talents and energy where it will make a difference.

    “What can I control? My attitude every single day when I come to work and my ability to work harder,” he says. “I controlled what I could control and I became the best tight end in college football and in the National Football League.”


    Williams had a lot to share with his fellow Orange men and women on the subject of courage. He admitted that the St. Louis Rams were a laughingstock the year before they won the Super Bowl. No one had any hope for the lowest ranking team in the league, but Williams and his teammates believed in themselves and they had the courage to keep going.

    “Never in the history of professional sports has a team gone from worse to first in one year,” he laughed as he outlined a few tips for building courage despite how difficult it may seem.

    “Say your goals out loud! Articulate what you want to do. Don’t be afraid to say ‘I want to win the Super Bowl’ or ‘I want to get that Oscar.’ Speak it to life,” Williams says passionately. “If you don’t say it out loud and bring power to your words and to your vision, it’s probably not going to happen,” he continued. “Say it with as much clarity and distinction as you can.”

    Williams also encouraged students to “know where [they’re] trying to go and to do what it takes to get there. It’s different for everybody and you have to have courage to be all in.”


    Williams explained that there are two different types of teamwork, aligning yourself with the right people and maximizing those relationships as well as being your own biggest supporter.

    “You have to be your own best teammate. You’ve got to cheer yourself on when nobody else will and you have to connect with external teammates,” he said.


    Williams emphasized not to focus on your wins and losses, but on actions and results. “I don’t know how many push ups I did, how many times I lifted, how many times I ran ‘til I cried,” he said, “I don’t know how many failures I’ve had, I just keep focusing on the results.”

    In addition to Williams, many other alumni have given their time and guidance to SULA students this semester. Other speakers have included Rob Light ’78, managing partner/head of music at Creative Artists Agency (CAA); Danny Zuker ’86, writer/executive producer, “Modern Family”; Craig Gerard ’04, writer, “How I Met Your Mother”; Brian Frons G’78, former president of Disney-ABC Television Group, Daytime; and Sean Carey ’89, VP of content acquisition at Netflix.

    To connect with Roland Williams, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @RolandSpeaks.

    Written by Whitney Marin, a senior television, radio and film and public policy dual major currently participating in the SULA Semester program.