If you're reading this sentence, you probably know better than to try to bully Connor Williams. That's easy to say now that he's a 6'5, 320 pound guard starting in the NFL, but as a child in Coppell, Williams was bullied regularly by kids his age.
So when news stories were going around about the case of 13-year-old SeMarion Humphrey, the Haggard Middle School student, who was bullied extensively with racial slurs and cruel behavior at a sleepover, he could imagine what the child was going through. Humphrey quit the football team due to the treatment by other students.
With the middle schooler's 14th birthday coming up, his mother worried that there was nothing she could do to help him enjoy it. So Williams reached out to see if she thought Humphrey would want to spend his big day with him. She agreed, and Williams and teammate Conner McGovern surprised Humphrey with a birthday party at Main Event in Plano. Main Event, a corporate sponsor of the Cowboys, rolled out the red carpet for Humphrey and his family and provided a full day of bowling, video games, pizza and even a personalized birthday cake.
Williams said that a few friends had sent him the viral story of Humphrey's treatment. Being unfairly judged and mistreated by your peers at that age is a feeling that's hard to forget.
"I went on to learn about his story and learn how similar the situation was [to mine]," Williams said, adding that Humphrey's treatment was even worse than his. "I just wanted to reach out and help the kid in whatever way I could."
Williams and McGovern signed autographs, played games, and bowled with Humphrey, but perhaps most importantly, he was a symbol that there was life past these moments that can feel so suffocating. People claim that what we go through makes us stronger, but it's usually an empty condolence given by someone who has never gone through what the person they're lecturing is experiencing. Victims of bullying don't need to be stronger. They need a safe place, and they could use the sympathy of someone who understands the validity of their pain.
"Bullying is a real issue in today's world, especially in these big cities where these kids get lost in these big schools," Williams said. "It's an honor to be able to speak for the people out there who aren't being spoken for. Words do hurt them."
What's to come for young Humphrey is impossible to say. He seems to have a supportive family, and he could do worse than Williams as a role model. The 23-year-old overcame ACL surgery in 2019 to start all 16 games for the Cowboys in 2020---and even led the entire team in snaps played.
Williams has made it a long way since those moments of childhood that were so difficult, and he's not finished yet. There's a starting spot waiting for him to defend in training camp, and he says his goal for 2021 is the same as when he entered the NFL: become a Pro Bowl selection.
"It's in sight now more than ever."