As Broncos move forward, memories, mourning linger

OTHER VOICES

The Kickoff

August 17, 2007|By Jean-Jacques Taylor | Jean-Jacques Taylor,The Dallas Morning News

The reminders are everywhere.

In the locker room. On the practice field. Around town.

Everywhere the Denver Broncos go, they see reminders of Darrent Williams, the cornerback who was killed senselessly when thugs riddled his limousine with bullets after a New Year's Eve party.

Javon Walker, the star receiver who cradled Williams' head as he took his final breaths, wears a mohawk in his friend's honor. John Lynch carries memories of Williams in his heart because of the way the 24-year-old treated his children.

"They'd run to him because he was so good. He had that impact on people, and kids more than anyone feel that," Lynch said. "They gravitated toward him. I always respected that and thanked him and he said, `That's who I am.'"

Perhaps that's one reason the 2005 second-round draft choice was so popular with teammates. They have spent much of the offseason honoring Williams and running back Damien Nash, who was found unresponsive at his home a few hours after playing in a charity basketball game in February and later died.

Players will wear separate decals with the jersey numbers of Williams and Nash on the back of their helmets. A bronze plaque honoring the players will hang at the Broncos' stadium, and the team will honor them at a home game this season.

The Broncos have dedicated a wing to Williams at the local Boys & Girls Club that the team supports.

The memories will never stop.

Ever.

And that's a good thing. No one in the Broncos organization wants to forget the Fort Worth, Texas, native who affected so many lives in such a short period with his vibrant, outgoing personality.

Several members of the team and the organization have remained in contact with Williams' mother, and there was a chance she would visit the players yesterday at practice or the team hotel.

"There's not a day that's gone by where we don't reflect on him," Lynch said Wednesday in Irving, Texas, as the Broncos prepared for tomorrow night's preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys.

"There are some days when everything comes back to reality that we don't have him anymore. Those days are tough, but there's not a day where we don't think about him."

The offseason has taken an emotional toll on coach Mike Shanahan, his staff and the players, which is one reason Shanahan didn't want to devote much time discussing the tragedies after the Broncos' joint practice with the Cowboys on Wednesday morning.

That's understandable.

Allowing their grief to languish and affect their preparation for the season would dishonor Williams' memory.

Collectively, the Broncos refuse to do it.

This is good because life stops for no one. It sounds callous, but it's not. No matter how tragic the death of a loved one. No matter how profound our grief.

Life moves on. So must we.

There are difficult moments when it seems the despair will never end, but eventually it does.

Time heals.

In the meantime, there is work to do. The NFL regular season begins in less than a month, and no one is going to take it easy on the Broncos because of the offseason tragedies they've endured.

The players know that. More importantly, they understand it.

All of this would be easier if there had been some closure.

It has been 228 days since Rosalind Williams last spoke to her only child. It has been more than 32 weeks since his children last heard their father's voice.

It has been nearly eight months since that needless crime was committed, and no one has been indicted.

Denver authorities have suspects in custody on unrelated drug charges, according to the local papers. Authorities, though, still don't have the evidence needed to secure an indictment. There are no guarantees anyone will ever be convicted for Williams' slaying no matter how much we want the guilty parties to be punished.

All we can do is patiently wait for justice.

That said, the Broncos have vowed not to let their friend's death ruin their season.

"It's in our mind whether we're in Oakland, Denver or wherever we are," said teammate Domonique Foxworth, the former University of Maryland standout, "but we have to put it aside and do our job."

No matter how heavy their hearts.

Jean-Jacques Taylor writes for The Dallas Morning News

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