ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Broncos running back Javonte Williams is using his downtime while recovering from a right knee injury to pursue his other passion: helping foster children.
“I just really want to make sure all the kids have the same life experiences and things that I did growing up,” said Williams, who founds his eponymous charity Foundation, endowment next month, one aimed at providing bedroom makeovers and Christmas gifts for children in foster care.
Williams has a 2-year-old adopted sister, Ryleigh, who went through the foster system, “so I’m a foster brother,” Williams said.
His parents, Jermaine and Shekemia Williams, took Ryleigh in when he was 4 weeks old because both of her birth parents were drug addicts and the couple adopted her three months later, Williams said.
This followed her attempt to adopt a boy through the foster system, which failed after months of hoping.
Establishing his foundation was therapeutic for Williams, who was injured in Week 5 in Las Vegas.
“When I help people, I feel better,” Williams told The Associated Press in his first interview since suffering a serious knee injury on Oct. 2.
One of the hottest names in fantasy football, Williams was entering his second NFL season after a brilliant rookie year in which he had seven touchdowns and was among the league’s best backs at breaking tackle.
In Week 4, however, the 2021 North Carolina second-round pick received a throw from Russell Wilson and was dropped for a 1-yard loss by Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby, who jumped on his back when Williams planted his right leg .
Williams’ knee buckled under the weight of Crosby’s 6-foot-5, 256-pound frame and tore his ACL, LCL and posterolateral corner, a complex area of tendons and ligaments around the outside of the knee.
The way back would be long, he was told. But Williams insists he will exceed expectations, saying: “I expect to be back by training camp.”
Williams recently got rid of his crutches and is starting to walk around, he said.
“It’s a slow walk, but I only have a brace and a compression shoe. I’m strengthening my quads and walking slowly. But I can probably start putting more emphasis on that in the next two weeks,” Williams said.
Williams’ game builds on power, going head-on against tacklers and tearing through defenders like they’re bowling pins. But he’s not one of those wondering if he’ll be the same player after that devastating knee injury and complex surgical repair.
“I feel like I’ve been through adversity my entire life, and I just always find a way around it,” Williams said. “Well, I mean, if I can’t do what I did before, I’ll find another way to get the job done.”
Williams is one of three founding players the Broncos lost on offense this season. Top receiver Tim Patrick (ACL) was injured at camp and Garett Bolles broke his right leg a week after Williams’ injury.
Without them, the Broncos (3-7) are in for a wildly disappointing season in which the league’s worst offense resulted in six one-point losses even as defense allows just 17.1 points per game.
The Broncos are averaging 14.7 points. Had they averaged just 19 points in regulation, which they’ve done 27 times over the past 30 years, they’d be 9-1 at the top of the NFL.
“Yeah, it was really hard just watching the attacking battles,” said Williams, who could have helped them pull out some of the tight games. “That’s the part that bothers me, and just watching people talk about the players, coaches, leadership. I mean, it was tough, but I don’t think it’s going to last much longer.”
“It gives me hope that we don’t go out there and just get blown away,” Williams explained. “I feel like we have the best defense in the league. We’ve got a superstar at quarterback, so I have a feeling that once he gets it, once he gets a handle on offense, that’s going to turn things around.
Even without Melvin Gordon, who was lifted Monday after fumbling at the goal line in Denver’s 22-16 overtime loss to the Raiders.
Gordon’s exit leaves Latavius Murray, Marlon Mack and Devine Ozigbo to share carries in the makeshift backfield.
“I believe in them,” Williams said, adding he also has faith in running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley, offensive coordinator Justin Outten, head coach Nathaniel Hackett and “the entire offensive system,” an overall optimism that’s rare in Denver these days.
Like his enthusiasm for helping foster children and foster families, this is another example of Williams’ cheerful demeanor in the face of adversity, one that’s helping him recover from the injury that may have stalled Denver’s season.
“Yeah, that’s all I can do,” Williams said. “I’ve already torn it up. The damage is done, I can’t just fix it in one day and the only way to attack it is with a positive attitude because I mean as soon as I start getting negative it’s really over.
“As long as I stay positive, I feel like everything else will fall into place.”