You might think with the success that each has had in athletics and business that accolades received in adolescence would not be cherished many years later.
Daryll “DJ” Jones and Dale Williams say nothing could be further from the truth.
“I can still remember as a boy the thrill of seeing my name in the newspaper and how great it felt to hold a trophy,” Jones said.
Williams added: “It means the world to a boy or girl. It is nice to be recognized and I know being honored was encouragement that inspired DJ and me to keep working hard to achieve something positive. A pat on the back means a lot to anyone, any age, any job.”
On Dec. 8, Sportsvisions will, for the ninth time, honor local prep football players and coaches at a Columbus Valley Area Awards Luncheon Ceremony. The sports marketing and events company operated by the two longtime friends will host the event at 11:30 a.m. in the St. Luke Ministry Center in Columbus.
Twenty-five of the area’s top high school football head coaches will be honored along with their best offensive and defensive players. A middle school player of the year will also be recognized.
The guest speaker will be Kirby Smart, the head coach of the University of Georgia football team.
Past speakers include Auburn head football coach Gus Malzahn, Alabama head coach Nick Saban and NFL players Brentson Buckner, Kevin Butler and Steve Wallace.
“It says a lot about the event that we can attract these kind of people to speak,” Jones said. “It means a lot to players and coaches to get to see and hear from people like that.
“There used to be a lot of organizations that honored our athletes but not so much anymore.”
Williams emphasized the importance of Sportsvisions’ annual event.
“We knew we had to find a way to honor our local student-athletes,” Jones said.
Sportsvisions produces “Sportsvisions The Magazine” and “Sportsvisions on Bounce TV.” The weekly sports feature show is hosted by Jones and Williams at 9 a.m. each Saturday.
Williams was a multi-sports star at Hardaway High School from which he graduated in 1977. A defensive back, he played football at The Citadel and at the University of Georgia. He played on the Bulldogs’ national championship team in 1980. He was selected by the Denver Gold of the United States Football League.
A successful businessman, he has served as a board member for the United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley and the United Negro College Fund. He was named Man of the Year in 2001 by the Men of Action civic group.
Jones is a former multi-sports star at Carver High School from which he graduated in 1980. He was drafted to play baseball by the Pittsburgh Pirates but chose to play football at the University of Georgia where, he, too, was a member of the 1980 national championship team.
He would go on to play in the National Football League with the Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos. He played in a Super Bowl with the Broncos.
A popular motivational speaker, Jones worked for several years as a sports anchor with television station WRBL.
He has won several honors including being honored by the Rainbow Coalition in 2005 with its Trailblazer Award given for outstanding character and unselfish giving.
“I like to think Dale and I have something to offer the kids,” Jones said. “We grew up in the same places as many of them, played in the same parks. You can come from here and be successful.”
And not just in football.
“Dale and I have had success in the business world and in broadcasting,” Jones said. “We did it and they can do it. Seeing what we have done, it makes a good future more believable to the athletes.”
It is why the two are often found giving inspirational speeches in different venues.
Among those who have been honored as players of the year at the luncheon are Carver High School’s Isaiah Crowell, who now plays for the Cleveland Browns; Jordan Jenkins of Harris County High, who now plays for the New York Jets; and Quan Bray, who played for Callaway High School in Troup County and now plays for the Indianapolis Colts.
Current college players who have been honored include Jawon Pass of Carver High School now at Louisville and Reuben Foster of Auburn High School now at Alabama.
Williams is high on the value of young people participating in sports. In an article in Sportsvision The Magazine, he said, “In sports you learn to develop a great work ethic and you develop relationships. It breaks down all racial barriers and people see you for who you are and you see them the same way.”
Asked about what advice he gives kids, Jones replied, “keep your nose clean and do the right thing. Whether it is cutting grass or laying bricks, do the best you can.”
Williams tells the athletes, “stay humble and always work hard in whatever you do.”