When someone who never considered any other soul a stranger passes from this earth, the number of friends we realize he possessed is beyond measurement.
Darrent Williams was remembered at a funeral service in the sprawling North Texas metropolis of Fort Worth on Saturday afternoon, and there was not an empty seat to be found at the 2,300-seat Great Commission Baptist Church for a ceremony that was truly a celebration of life — not only of that of the little cornerback with a massive heart, but life in general.
In the funeral program and throughout the two-and-a-half hour service, he was often referred to simply as “D-Will.” So I’m not going to follow standard convention and write “Williams” on every reference that follows. “D-Will” is how so many of his family and friends addressed him. It is how I often addressed him. A nickname is always a little more lively than one’s given name; that made it so appropriate for someone whose cup runneth over with a joie de vivre the likes of which I have rarely witnessed. Fortunately, thousands did witness it, as evidenced by the throng that packed every nook and cranny of the church’s bulbous sanctuary.
Funeral services are for the living, but are about the departed. These ritualistic gatherings are about helping and soothing the pain of those left behind. Whether that is the case with each such service is a question that can only be answered one by one by each individual in attendance; grieving is a process common to us all, but its form is unique to every one of us.
Therefore, I can only write for myself, and I can only write this:
When I sat down after walking past the open casket, I was barely able to contain a geyser of tears within my closed eyes. Funerals always do this to me. The week had been so hectic, there was scant opportunity to pause, reflect, get beyond the numbness that many of us with the Broncos felt and absorb the reality that D-Will would never dominate the conversation in his corner of the locker room once again — a reality that dropped like an anvil as the procession of Broncos paid their respects.
But as the stories were told, Scripture cited and the tributes relayed, a smile began to cross my face and warm feelings began to flood my mind.
Indeed, we were blessed to have D-Will in our midst for just over 21 months — a short time which each of us who float in the Broncos’ midst will certainly recall with fondness for the smiles he spawned, the laughter he shared and, of course, the plays he made on the field. He had the normal ups and downs that any young player experiences, but with eight interceptions in two years and a place on the first team of a club that won 22 of 32 games in two seasons, he certainly proved that he belonged in a league where the vast majority of cornerbacks were bigger and stronger than him.
As I write this, I sit 35,000 feet above the Texas panhandle, in the rear of the team plane. The smiles that were absent from these faces on the journey to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport this morning seem to be slowly returning. Now, I’m not saying that we were collectively uplifted enough to allow this 767 to fly home without cutting on its engines. But today, each of us privileged enough to share in the celebration of D-Will’s life left feeling at least a smidgen better through our collective grief about what he brought into our worlds.
It somehow seemed appropriate, then, that as we emerged from the church and trudged to the waiting buses earlier this afternoon, the sun finally pierced what seemed to be an impenetrable blanket of gray clouds. It was brief, but sufficient enough to remind all in attendance that somewhere in the great beyond, D-Will is still there, and always will be, whenever one is in need of a little boost or a random smile — the kind that he gave us so often.
Darrent Williams, 1982-2007.
Rest in peace, and thank you for crossing our path.