Quinnen Williams became one of the NFL’s highest-paid defensive players when he signed a four-year, $96 million deal with the New York Jets in July. It was life-changing money not only for himself, but also those in the communities where he’s giving back.
On top of being a premier defensive tackle, the 25-year-old runs the Quinnen Williams Foundation, an organization that was top of mind when he put pen to paper on his new contract.
“The first thing I thought about was what can I do this year that's better? How much money can I spend this year when it comes down to the foundation?” Williams told NBC. “And how much I can do to help change other people's lives this year. How can I broaden my horizons?”
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Williams established his foundation with a focus on two areas that had a major impact on his upbringing: single-family homes and cancer awareness.
Williams’ mother, Marquischa, died of breast cancer in 2010. His father, Quincy Williams, Sr., was suddenly solely in charge of parenting four children. Williams said his father showed him how hard single parents across the world work for their families.
“I seen how hard he worked. I seen how all the things, all the struggles he had to go through to make sure all four of his kids have a fun and amazing upbringing,” Williams said. “And I see how hard it was that he had to sacrifice so much. So I know single parents, single moms, single dads out here that's struggling and looking for help and different things like that that's doing all they can do for their kids.”
Williams was particularly grateful for how his father cared for his children around the holidays. He said his father worked year-round just to make sure his kids had something to celebrate at Christmas time.
One of the Quinnen Williams Foundation’s main efforts is keen on spreading that same joy to other families. The 100 Reasons Why campaign spread $25,000 to 100 single-parent households in Williams’ hometown Birmingham, Ala., last holiday season.
“He had to basically work the whole year just to make us smile on Christmas Day,” Williams said of his father. “And I know that took a lot of strength, a lot of courage, a lot of hard work, a lot of money to make sure all four of his kids had a gift that they wanted on Christmas. And I understood how hard it was for him as I got older.”
The Quinnen Williams foundation also awards The Williams Scholarship to help students in the Birmingham area.
Williams starred at the University of Alabama and won a national championship with the Crimson Tide, but he said he never would have gotten the chance to get a college education without his football scholarship. Now, he is determined to make sure other kids have the same chance to chase their passions.
“If I never got a football scholarship, I don't think I was going to college just because my parents and my family didn't have the money to put me through college, to put all four of us through college,” Williams said. “So … god blessed me with the opportunity, and the University of Alabama blessed me with the opportunity to go to college to further my education and to play football at the same time. …
“I just thought to myself that it's people in this world, it's kids in this world that want, that's smart as they can be, that want to be doctors, that want to be lawyers, that want to be presidents and nurses and teachers and stuff in this world. But their family just don't have the money to put them through college, and that's just an opportunity that they don't get a chance to just because of the financial burden on them.
“I wanted to be that blessing to another person to help them achieve the goals that they wanted to achieve.”
Williams played two seasons in Tuscaloosa before being selected third overall by the Jets in the 2019 NFL Draft. Once he made it to the league, he had his mother on his mind and immediately became an advocate for cancer awareness.
He has been recognized for his off-the-field contributions since his NFL career began. In 2021, he was the Jets’ nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which is handed out annually to a player who exemplifies outstanding community service and excellence on the field.
Looking ahead, Williams has goals to expand his charitable operations. He wants to start doing more outreach in New Jersey and New York, along with more events in his home state.
“I want to continue to do my 100 Reasons Why campaign, continue doing the scholarships, but just partner with different people to help achieve a better goal,” he said.