photo by Emily Behan
A defensive back in the National Football League (NFL); 12 interceptions; 125 yards run, 1 touchdown. That’s Madieu Williams in stats. What the numbers don’t say about this West African native, University of Maryland graduate is what he does outside his sport. Other NFL players take vacation, visit family and sometimes get arrested. Not Madieu; his charity work (including large donations and building a school in his hometown, under-developed, civil war-ravaged Sierra Leone) earned him the 2010 NFL Man of the Year award. He couldn’t accept because he was visiting troops in the Persian Gulf.
When I interviewed Mr. Williams he said growing up in Sierra Leone was fun and it seemed bigger then. He lived there until age nine. His mother inspired him from that early age: donating, working at soup kitchens and making sure he was educated.
Mr. Williams didn’t play football until high school. “I grew up playing soccer; I wasn’t into football, but I wanted to hang out with my friends so I joined.” (And, he still plays for camaraderie.)
He also thinks it’s important to give to others. “Those who are blessed with a lot have a responsibility to give to those who don’t. Give back money, but also time… time is the most valuable thing you can give.” His charity started small, sending supplies to schools in Sierra Leone. Shipments got bigger with clothes, shoes and money. He now makes trips there, bringing teachers, doctors and dentists; and, he still brings school supplies to the school his foundation organized. His current goals for Sierra Leone are to build a middle school, high school and solar power plant.
Without a doubt there’s more to Madieu than stats. He has inspired me to do more. For more about Madieu’s charity in Maryland and abroad, www.madieuwilliams.org.
7th grader Sam Turnbaugh, Hereford Middle School, Baltimore County, enjoys helping in his community and is active in his Boy Scout Troop.
Eighth grader Emily Behan, Hereford Middle School, Baltimore County, is gaining skill as a photographer.