BY GEOFF HOBSON
First, Madieu Williams became a fixture in the Bengals' secondary as their rookie big-play free safety. Now he heads into his second season as a fixture in the Cincinnati community.
After serving as the spokesman for the March of Dimes during several high-profile fundraisers this offseason, Williams oversees what he hopes is his first free football clinic Saturday at South Avondale Field. It's open to 8-10-year-olds from 9-11 a.m. and to 11-13-year-olds from 12-2 p.m. on the field across from the Avondale Boys & Girls Club.
It's also been an offseason of loss for Williams, but he believes Saturday is a day that is not only going to help the kids, but also help him cope with a devastating change in his life.
Even before he arrived in this country from the West African nation of Sierra Leone, he watched his mother give back to their community. Abigail Burscher moved to the United States when her son was seven and when she was finally settled in Landover, Md. two years later in 1990, she sent for Madieu. When she died during the May minicamps, she had long completed life's lessons.
"It all stems from my mother. She was a nurse and helping the less fortunate was something that came by her naturally," Williams says. "She was in the business of helping people and I just think it rubbed off on me. It's kind of become a part of me because she always told me whatever I can do to help, I should do it."
Even before he came to Cincinnati with the security of a second-round draft pick, Williams, now 24, gave back. He spent the summer before his last season at the University of Maryland working with terminally ill children as part of his internship for a degree in family studies.
"It's been tough putting the pieces together. Nothing can ease the pain of losing your mother," Williams says. "But having the knowledge I'm doing the right thing and that this is something that she would have wanted me to do, yeah, that does help a little bit. I've thought about doing something like this long before I got here."
The Boys & Girls Club is dear to Williams. It's where a young soccer player met new friends and learned the true fundamentals of a strange sport in a strange place.
"It really helped me, and I ended up playing basketball and baseball there, too," says Williams of his club. "My mom didn't want me in contact football. I didn't play that until I got to high school, but I learned a lot about the game playing organized flag football."
Fundamentals, of course, are what is going to be stressed Saturday. And every camper receives a T-Shirt, refreshments, and the chance to meet the head counselor. But it's not the main topic of class.
"The big thing is building self esteem on and off the field," Williams says. "I'm going to talk about teamwork, too, but we also want to work on self esteem. That's one of the main ingredients for success in whatever you're going to do."
On Saturday, Williams gets the chance to pass on the lesson a mother still gives.