Dallas Cowboys right tackle Erik Williams was one of the few offensive linemen who could manhandle legendary Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Reggie White.
The 6’6″, 325-lb. Williams somehow found ways to hold off one of the greatest pass rushers in the history of professional football.
Not only that, but Williams was also part of a stellar offensive line that helped the Dallas Cowboys win three Super Bowl titles in the 1990s.
With “Big E” protecting quarterback Troy Aikman and opening up holes for Emmitt Smith, the Cowboys became a juggernaut during that era.
Despite a serious car accident during the 1994 NFL season, Erik Williams solidified his status as one of the best offensive linemen in Dallas Cowboys franchise history.
Erik George Williams was born in Philadelphia, PA on September 7, 1968.
According to Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, Williams’ massive frame defied the limits of youth league football.
Williams didn’t let that get in the way of his love for football.
He organized eight-on-eight street football scrimmages with kids from other neighborhoods.
The kids initially agreed two hard touches on the ball carrier resulted in a tackle. However, they eventually resorted to regular, bone-crushing tackles in the heat of the battle.
Williams and his friends played on concrete with cars parked nearby, per King.
He idolized Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Reggie White growing up.
Little did Williams know he would take on White when he became a member of the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL.
“I watched Reggie growing up, and I wanted to be like him,” Williams told Sports Illustrated in his third pro season in 1993.
Dallas Cowboys great Erik Williams went to John Bartram
— BR 🦮 (@RamunoJr) May 31, 2020
Erik Williams attended John Bartram High School in Southwest Philly.
He emerged as a powerful defensive lineman for the John Bartram Braves during his high school days.
Unfortunately, Williams’ poor grades scared many Division I college football recruiters.
Erik Williams eventually evolved into an NFL-ready lineman with the Central State Marauders in the next phase of his gridiron journey.
College Days With The Central State Marauders
Erik Williams attended Central State University in Wilberforce, OH from 1987 to 1990.
He starred for Central State Marauders head football coach Billy Joe.
Joe made a significant change to Williams’ football career: he switched the big man to the left tackle position in college.
Erik Williams responded and blossomed into an All-American offensive lineman for the Marauders.
He helped CSU win forty-one of the forty-nine games he played in.
Williams was instrumental in firing up the Marauders’ high-octane offense in the 1990 NAIA season.
The Marauders rewrote NAIA Division I records with their season total of 594 points and an average of 492 all-purpose yards.
Representing the @CentralState87 Maroon and Gold…@BCFHOF member, Super Bowl Champion, All-Pro @dallascowboys o-lineman and All-time CSU great Erik Williams repping his alma mater!@TheSIAC @NCAADII @Andre247Now @HBCUGameday @Onnidan @daytonsports @StudentPres @ADTaraOwens pic.twitter.com/M2olOp2Zlz
— Central State Athletics (@GO_MARAUDERS) December 18, 2021
CSU annihilated the opposition by an average of 37.5 points per game on their way to their first NAIA title in 1990, per MarauderSports.com.
The Marauders went on to win two more NAIA championships in the 1990s when Williams was earning Super Bowl rings with the Dallas Cowboys.
When Chicago Bears offensive line coach Tony Wise visited CSU, he shared the same sentiments with other pro scouts: Williams didn’t benefit from first-rate strength training and tough competition during his tenure with the Marauders.
However, Wise thought Williams’ toughness stood out, per King.
Erik Williams rose from relative obscurity in his native Philadelphia to become a dominant offensive lineman in the NAIA ranks.
He would eventually become an instrumental part of a resurgent Dallas Cowboys dynasty in the 1990s.
Pro Football Career
The Dallas Cowboys made Erik Williams the 70th overall selection of the 1991 NFL Draft.
Williams joined a Cowboys team that was on the verge of building a dynasty in the 1990s.
He became teammates with future Hall of Famers Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin – the core that helped Dallas win three Vince Lombardi Trophies from 1992 to 1995.
Williams helped protect Aikman and open up holes for Smith together with Cowboys offensive linemen Larry Allen, Ray Donaldson, Nate Newton, and Mark Tuinei.
Happy Birthday to former @dallascowboys OL Erik Williams.
Williams was drafted 70th overall (3rd round) in the 1991 NFL Draft.
— DFW Sports (@DFW_SportsBlitz) September 7, 2021
Unfortunately, Williams’ pro football career got off to a rough start,
He got into a few training camp skirmishes with some of his Cowboys teammates, per King.
Williams’ first start in the National Football League was also something he’d rather forget.
With left tackle Mark Tuinei injured for the game against the then-Phoenix Cardinals, Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson asked Williams to take his place.
Cardinals linebacker Ken Harvey made mincemeat of Williams with 3.0 sacks in the first half alone.
Fortunately, Williams improved and got his act together. Johnson eventually moved him to right tackle in his second pro season in 1992.
Williams thrived in that position ever since.
The position switch was also a daunting task for the 6’6″, 325-lb. Williams.
He had to square off against top-notch left defensive ends such as the Philadelphia Eagles’ Reggie White, the Washington Redskins’ Charles Mann, and the New York Giants’ Eric Dorsey.
All three defensive ends played for the Cowboys’ NFC East division rivals so he had to hold them off twice every year not counting the postseason.
Johnson reiterated the importance of the right tackle position in the competitive NFC East.
“In any other division, you worship left tackles,” Johnson told King in 1993. “Here, the right tackle’s just as important.”
It became increasingly evident Erik Williams was the right tackle the Dallas Cowboys needed at the right time.
For Williams’ part, going up against White – his boyhood idol in Philly – was a dream come true.
“The day in training camp they named me the starter at right tackle, my first thought was, I gotta get ready for Reggie,” he told Sports Illustrated in his third pro season.
White got the better of Williams in their very first meeting. The former had 2.0 sacks in Philadelphia’s 31-7 rout of Dallas.
Williams did a better job of holding off white in their second encounter. White had no sacks and three tackles in the Cowboys’ 20-10 win.
Erik Williams consequently earned NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
The fact Williams was the only offensive lineman to earn the accolade made it even more impressive.
Williams stymied the bull strong White in their third meeting – the 1992 NFC Divisional Round.
According to King, White never touched the ball carrier in thirty-two one-on-one plays against Williams.
Williams and the Cowboys’ offensive line did a good job protecting quarterback Troy Aikman.
Aikman had 200 passing yards and two touchdown passes in Dallas’ 34-10 rout of Philadelphia.
After the officials blew the final whistle, Erik Williams knew he was a legitimate force in the National Football League.
Nobody saw Williams’ dominance of White – a thirteen-time Pro Bowler – coming.
No less than Green Bay Packers scout and analyst Bryan Broaddus witnessed Williams’ supremacy over White during their legendary battles on the gridiron.
White complained to Broaddus on the Packers sideline that Williams routinely struck him on the throat with his fist, mangled his thumb, and poked him in the eye to obscure his vision.
Williams was one of the few players who could take White out of the equation and make him a non-factor.
For these reasons, Reggie White detested playing against Erik Williams, per Broaddus.
With Williams clicking on all cylinders, he helped the Cowboys average a gaudy thirteen wins and win back-to-back Super Bowl titles in 1992 and 1993.
Not only that, but Williams also earned First-Team All-Pro honors and his first Pro Bowl berth in 1993.
Williams went on to earn two more First-Team All-Pro selections in his eleven-year NFL career.
He also earned three more Pro Bowl berths during that span.
Had there not been a terrible car accident the big cat Erik Williams woulda had a case for himself ….. he was nastier then Larry was ! pic.twitter.com/0keer1mD67
— Matthew McCaughan (@4AcesPhi) January 31, 2022
Just when Erik Williams reached the pinnacle of his pro football career, life threw him a curveball.
Williams was involved in a car accident after he and his Cowboys teammates hung out at a dance club in Irving, TX on October 24, 1994.
The Cowboys just flew in from a road game against the Arizona Cardinals.
According to The Washington Post, Williams’ car plowed into a guardrail as he approached the tollway from Interstate 635.
The Department of Public Safety confirmed Williams wasn’t intoxicated at the time of the incident. However, his fatigue and speed were factors in the collision.
Williams exceeded 75 mph in a 35 mph zone.
He tore two ligaments and a muscle in his right knee, broke a rib, tore left thumb ligaments, and suffered facial lacerations, per The Washington Post.
Williams’ injury sidelined him for the remainder of the 1994 NFL campaign.
Without Williams, the Cowboys still won twelve games for the second consecutive season.
Unfortunately, Dallas saw its Super Bowl run end with a 38-28 loss to Steve Young’s San Francisco 49ers in the 1994 NFC Championship Game.
A rejuvenated Erik Williams returned with a vengeance for the 1995 NFL season.
However, some opponents noticed Williams’ style of play on the offensive line changed drastically since his automobile accident.
“Ever since he got hurt in that car wreck, he’s been the dirtiest son of a b–ch I’ve seen,” an AFC defensive lineman told SI.com’s Lars Anderson in the summer of 1997. “He can’t move like he used to; so he goes for the knees, gouges eyes, whatever it takes to slow a guy down.”
An incident during the 1995 NFC Divisional Round matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles seemed to validate that anonymous lineman’s claim.
After Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman passed the ball to Deion Sanders for an incompletion, Williams yanked Eagles defensive end William Fuller to the ground by his face mask.
After Fuller rose to his feet, Williams inexplicably bopped him on his helmet.
William Fuller on Erik Williams after this play in January 1996: “It’s the same thing all the time, he goes hands to the face. I told him to block me like a man, and he said he couldn’t because he has a bad knee and that he would next year.” pic.twitter.com/Wa6TTKumF9
— Dan McQuade (@dhm) November 15, 2019
Fuller told Defector.com’s Dan McQuade some twenty-six years later he grew tired of Williams’ antics.
Williams tried holding off Fuller’s pass rush by sticking his hands to the latter’s face.
An enraged Fuller dared Williams to block him like a man. However, the former told him he couldn’t because of a bum knee.
Instead, Williams promised Fuller he’d block him the way he wanted to the following year.
Williams’ Cowboys beat Fuller’s Eagles 30-11 on their way to their second consecutive Super Bowl victory.
Aikman, the perennial Pro Bowl quarterback whom Williams helped protect for ten seasons, thought Williams was the best offensive lineman in the league prior to his accident.
He even thought Williams was a sure bet to make it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday. However, Aikman noticed he was a shadow of his old self after the car accident.
The Cowboys quarterback also observed Williams relied more on pure grit rather than innate talent since then.
“He relied more on his toughness and nastiness,” Aikman told The Dallas Morning News‘ Rick Gosselin in 2013. “Every play was an alley fight. It was like the WWF.”
Cowboys offensive coordinator Norv Turner agreed with Aikman’s assessment.
Even Williams himself felt he would’ve been a first-ballot Hall of Famer had it not been for that fateful night in October 1994, per Gosselin.
To make matters worse, Williams’ life off the field was shrouded in controversy.
A young woman accused him of sexual assault in the spring of 1995. Fortunately, a grand jury did not indict Williams due to insufficient evidence.
In Williams’ first game back since his injury, he taunted New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan.
He told Strahan either he or Allen would show him up in that Monday Night Football encounter.
Sure enough, the offensive line opened up a massive hole for Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith.
He scored on a 60-yard touchdown in just the third play of the game. Dallas won a laugher over New York, 35-0.
With Williams back in harness, the Cowboys won twelve games for the third year in a row.
— 90’s Dallas Cowboys (@90s_cowboys) September 7, 2021
They beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX, 27-17. It was Dallas’ third Vince Lombardi Trophy in the past four seasons and fifth overall.
Williams made headlines again almost a year later.
A 23-year-old woman, a former topless dancer who became a cosmetics employee at a mall in Dallas, accused Williams of raping her at his residence on December 29, 1996.
Williams denied her allegations. He also refuted her claims that Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin pointed a gun at her head.
“I’ve been falsely accused of something I didn’t do and I’m looking forward to the truth to come out as soon as possible,” a distressed Williams told The Washington Post’s Leonard Shapiro.
To Williams’ relief, Dallas police cleared him and Irvin of the charges in January 1997.
Williams played four more seasons with the Cowboys, who were no longer the juggernaut of earlier years.
Dallas averaged just seven wins per season from 1997 to 2000. The Cowboys never made it past the NFC Wild Card Game during that span.
Williams spent the 2001 NFL season with the Baltimore Ravens. He was a reserve offensive tackle who suited up in just five games.
Erik Williams retired from the National Football League after his one-year stint in Baltimore.
Cowboys fans will always remember Williams as the ferocious right tackle who helped the team win three Super Bowl trophies in the 1990s.
Charlestown, PA police charged Erik Williams with simple assault and harassment after a drunken argument turned violent in the spring of 2003.
A police report mentioned Williams scratched his wife Chanda in the face and bruised her thigh, per the Daily Local News’ Gina Zotti.
Chanda Williams fled into a nearby wooded area until authorities arrived.
Erik Williams reached a deal with prosecutors to complete domestic and marital abuse counseling. Completion meant the withdrawal of the original charges police filed against him.
Williams became a member of the CSU Marauder Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010.
Mesquite, TX police arrested Williams’ 20-year-old son Cassius and charged him and another accomplice with two counts of capital murder in June 2018.
Cassius Williams’ arrest stemmed from the shooting murder of two teenagers. Police told The Dallas Morning News’ Dana Branham that Williams and 21-year-old Rozman Shannon, Jr. wanted to buy drugs from the victims.
Williams’ bail was set at $1 million.
His father Erik told Branham he was on full disability at the time of his son’s arrest. Erik Williams also had two hip replacement surgeries in the weeks leading up to the incident.
He showed up at his son’s hearing hoping the judge would lower his bail amount.
The Black College Football Hall of Fame inducted Erik Williams on November 15, 2019.
According to the Marauders’ official athletics website, Williams is the third CSU Marauder to gain entry into the Black College Football Hall of Fame.
He followed suit after his college football coach Billy Joe and teammate Hugh Douglas
Williams founded the Erik Williams Foundation in 2009. The non-profit organization awards college scholarships to deserving high school players in the Dallas, TX area.