Alabama great, Sherman Williams, working to help former prisoners turn their lives around

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) – “I could catch the ball out of the backfield. I could throw a halfback pass. I could run the ball up the middle. I could run the ball around the end.”

There was a time when Sherman Williams made a living off breaking free and running to daylight. The former Alabama star became a national and Super Bowl champion. But there was one area from which Williams couldn’t escape — his past. “[I] became a member of a gang, started doing gang activities…you know, just being a rebel.”

Paul Littlejohn III understands the rebellious lifestyle. Six months after the former Alabama State Hornet graduated college, he was in prison. “I went in at 22 and came out at 52.”

Williams never thought that would be him, “Whenever you do something for so long and get away with it, it’s only natural to think that you’re going to continue to get away with it.”

In 2000, though, he didn’t get away with it. Williams was convicted of distributing marijuana and pleaded guilty to counterfeiting charges. For the next thirteen years, number 20 would be known as number 07520-003. “You can’t go no lower here on earth than prison. The next step is the graveyard.”

But the guy who so deftly stepped his way into end zones took the same leap of faith Littlejohn took before him, “The Bible says it this way. ‘Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove that which is the good, acceptable and perfect will of God’.”

Williams says renewing his mind, and allowing the Holy Spirit in his life, changed his spirit, “Instead of being bitter, hateful, and resentful, I started to share love. I started to share joy.”

He also shared his story. Instead of pretending thirteen years of his life never happened, he speaks to organizations across Alabama, including Shepherd’s Fold in Birmingham. That’s where Littlejohn works as assistant operations manager, “Guys like me needed someone that understood what it was like on both sides.”

That type of understanding can help those in need to stay on the outside, says Williams, “You have to sacrifice people, you have to sacrifice ideas, you have to sacrifice places; you have to make a great sacrifice to be able to walk a road that’s going to lead you down the right path.”

Shepherd’s Fold helps men and women, recently released from prison, avoid making the same mistakes by giving them housing, advising, and guidance. “In prison you make about a hundred decisions a day, here you make over a thousand or more,” says Williams, “Shepherd’s Fold is that bridge between prison and society.”

Williams knows the importance of purpose in life, “Your life here on earth is only worth what you do to help others…God has a purpose for your life. It’s up to the individual to find out what that purpose is.”

And that purpose isn’t limited to between the lines or behind bars.

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