Carolina Panthers offensive tackle Daryl Williams had a tough start to his NFL career.
On his first snap in his first regular-season game, a Jacksonville Jaguars defensive lineman fell into Williams’ right knee, which buckled and left Williams – who was blocking on a field goal – on the ground in pain.
He ended up missing the next five games with a sprained knee ligament – a less-than-ideal development for a fourth-round pick trying to make an impact as a rookie.
But Williams kept a positive outlook while he plowed through the rehab process. He returned to play 12 games, including both NFC playoff victories, and started as an extra offensive lineman against Denver in Super Bowl 50.
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Life is tough. My mom – leading by example, going through a tough life – she just never quit. That’s how I’ve been raised – to never quit, to persevere and keep fighting.
Carolina Panthers OT Daryl Williams on his mother, Lameca Williams-Hindman
Williams has a strong role model for that perseverance – his mom, who was a mother for the first time at 14, went back to school to earn three degrees (and is working on a fourth) following an abusive marriage, and taught her five children the value of education and accepting responsibility.
So no, Williams wasn’t going to let a knee injury keep him down.
“Life is tough,” he said Friday during a phone interview. “My mom – leading by example, going through a tough life – she just never quit. That’s how I’ve been raised – to never quit, to persevere and keep fighting. And that’s what I did.”
Five kids by age 23
Lameca Williams-Hindman grew up in Newport News, Va., and went to Denbigh High, where she was a few years behind Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. She met a young sailor stationed nearby in Norfolk and got pregnant.
Lameca had Michael when she was nearly 15, and she and Daryl Williams Sr. married the next year. Daryl Jr. arrived the following year and was 2 when his father was transferred to the Dallas area in his native Texas.
Their family continued to grow. By the time Williams-Hindman was 23, she had five children and was starting a chapter of MOMS Club, a support group for stay-at-home mothers.
Williams-Hindman, who had gotten her high school equivalency degree in Virginia, said most of the moms in the group had college degrees and “got to have a life before kids.”
One day Williams-Hindman passed a new branch campus for North Central Texas College, a two-year school near her home in Corinth. She walked into the school, was hired as an admissions clerk and earned her associate’s degree while working.
Williams-Hindman soon was taking online courses at the University of North Texas, where she received her bachelor’s degree, and later added two Master’s in education-related fields.
“I found out with five kids you can’t get a corporate job and maintain five kids,” she said. “So that’s why I became a teacher and fell in love with teaching.”
A challenge overcome
A crumbling marriage also motivated Williams-Hindman to get started on her career.
She says Williams Sr. was abusive physically to her, which caused emotional pain for the whole family. According to court records, a Texas judge approved a protective order in 2007 – three months before the couple’s divorce was finalized.
Williams says he hasn’t heard from his dad in the 10 years since he left.
Williams-Hindman, 42, kept her kids in school, sports and church. She required the three boys to play two sports apiece, and limited the amount of TV they could watch after school.
Once she’d get the kids to bed, Williams-Hindman would get on the computer to finish assignments as she continued to juggle coursework with raising her kids and holding a job.
“I remember her being on her laptop a lot,” Williams said. “And doing a lot of homework.”
She often brought the laptop with her to the kids’ practices or other activities, knocking out a term paper in the bleachers at a high school football stadium or gymnasium.
“I did not sleep a lot. Coffee was my best friend,” Williams-Hindman said. “But I did not let my decisions in life compromise what I had to do for them as a mother.”
‘Always for us’
In 2009 Lameca (pronounced LAH-meesa) married Jason Hindman, an electrician who had no children of his own.
“If she ever dated another man or got married (again), the guys would have to connect with us first,” Williams said. “She’s definitely always for us.”
Williams remembers every summer when he and his brothers were in elementary school, their mother would make them walk to the library and borrow a book. They were to read it and turn in a report to her by the end of the summer.
It was not optional.
When Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops came for an in-home recruiting visit, Williams-Hindman made him spaghetti and told him she expected her son to graduate. Williams started 37 games for the Sooners and left with a degree in human relations.
Williams-Hindman was a high school principal for two years, but went back to the classroom when Williams was playing college football so she could see more of his games.
Currently she’s teaching college-level courses to high school students and collaborating with teachers on instructional strategies, while trying to finish her doctoral degree.
This fall Williams-Hindman will have three kids in college. Timothy, 22, and Malesa, 21, are both at North Texas, while 18-year-old Lia, who’s autistic, will be enrolled at Texas Woman’s University.
Despite the strains of having children at a young age, Williams-Hindman says she has no regrets.
“Even though people said, ‘Well, you did it backwards, most people get a degree and then have kids,’ I don’t see it that way,” she said. “I enjoy being a mother. And it was rough, getting a GED and then having to get an education with five kids. I still enjoy it.”
Lessons for life
Williams said his mother taught him how to treat women – lessons he’s taken into his own marriage. He and his wife, Amber, were married on July 4, 2015, and live in a condo in Charlotte.
Williams he also learned to take his career seriously from his mom, who has developed a close bond with her daughter-in-law.
Williams, 24, started 10 games at right tackle last season after Michael Oher entered the concussion protocol. He’s still in it, and Panthers officials have offered no guarantees he’ll be back.
The Panthers drafted Western Michigan tackle Taylor Moton in the second round of last month’s draft. So regardless of Oher’s status, Williams will have competition for the starting spot opposite left tackle Matt Kalil.
That’s fine with Williams, who saw the importance of resiliency with every online class his mother took, every summer reading project she assigned and everything else she did after his dad left.
“It’s crazy,” Williams said. “I think she had my brother when she was 14. Being able to take care of him and then the rest of us when we came along, that says a lot by itself. It says a lot about her character.”
Williams had hoped to get back to Texas for Mother’s Day weekend, but couldn’t find any reasonable last-minute flights. His siblings in the Dallas area might take their mom to dinner, although she plans to spend part of the day working on her dissertation proposal.
But if she finds a quiet moment, Williams-Hindman will reflect on her most important job – and one she’s held from a young age.
“I love being a mother. I absolutely love being a mother,” she said. “I would say that due to my choices I shouldn’t have been a mother as a teen-ager. But when I was faced with the responsibility, I dove in 100 percent.”