Hospital visit no chore for Terps' Williams

Just part of job for most, safety has his heart in trip

Gator Bowl notebook

December 29, 2003|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Visiting a children's hospital the week of a bowl game has become something of a cliche for college football players.

It's standard now for a team's itinerary to include a parade, banquets, numerous practices and a midweek visit to a children's hospital to sign autographs and spend a little time with the patients.

Those are sobering moments in a week filled with pomp and circumstance, but when they're over, most of the players will wave goodbye, knowing future such visits are unlikely.

Not Maryland safety Madieu Williams. For him, today's visit to Wolfson Children's Hospital with several of his teammates will be a reminder of his sad, but wonderful, internship last summer at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, during which he talked and laughed with the sick kids - many of them terminally ill - for hours on end.

"Obviously, it's something that means a lot to me," Williams said. "I'm really looking forward to it ... "

Three times a week during the summer, Williams made visits to NIH as one of the requirements for getting his degree in family studies this year. Though he likely will end up in an NFL camp next fall, his real goal is to become a family therapist.

Helping people, Williams said, is something he has wanted to do for most of his life. Born in Sierra Leone, Williams and his mother moved to the United States when he was 8. His still has family in Africa, and hopes to someday make it back to a country that has recently been torn apart by a civil war.

"Madieu has a lot of character, and a lot of that comes from his upbringing," said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen. "His mom is a great person, and I know he gets a lot of that from her."

Before he goes on to more noble pursuits, however, Williams has at least one more football game to play. After transferring from Towson in 2001 and walking on during spring practice, even Williams sometimes has a hard time believing how well things have worked out for him at Maryland.

Maryland's loss

West Virginia defensive back Brian King (a Damascus native) impressed plenty of people the previous two years with his play at safety, but moving him to cornerback this season helped solidify an already strong Mountaineers defense.

Against Virginia Tech, King picked off two passes. Against Boston College, he picked off two more. Though he sat out the second half of the game against Maryland this year with back spasms, he still earned plenty of praise from Friedgen this week.

"I wish he had come to Maryland," Friedgen said.

Gator Bowl

Matchup:No. 23 Maryland (9-3) vs. No. 20 West Virginia (8-4)

Site:Alltell Stadium, Jacksonville, Fla.

When:Thursday, 12:30 p.m.

TV/Radio:Chs. 11, 4/WBAL (1090 AM)

Line:Maryland by 3 1/2

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