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Alan Williams – Live Deeply

I’m Alan Williams, and this is how I’ve been living deeply 

 Ever since I was a kid growing up in Knoxville, then moving to South Florida, my dream was to play in the NFL. And I was right on the edge. After leading the country in punting most of my senior year at Florida, the Jets drafted me in 1978. I got to New York and was awestruck -this was where Joe Namath played!- and I just lost it; wasn’t in the right frame of mind to succeed. They cut me. I was distraught like you wouldn’t believe; went back home to Knoxville crying. I hoped to get another shot at football but couldn’t count on it. Now I had to figure out life -and a job- in the real world. A friend of my dad’s kept pointing me to this and that (including selling insurance- ‘Nope, not for me!’), and eventually said, ‘Well I know the general manager of WBIR-TV. Let’s just go talk to him.’ I had no training at all, no resume or videotape, but I went. They wrote some copy and asked me to read it. I was nervous as everything but must have done okay. They said, ‘Give us a call if the NFL doesn’t work out.’ So I put the TV idea on a shelf and signed with the Packers -the team I’d grown up rooting for- in 1979. Bart Starr, the legendary ex-QB, was the head coach. As I put on that helmet in training camp, I thought, ‘Oh, this is just too real now.’ They had five punters competing for a roster spot, including two they had drafted! (Who even drafts one punter, let alone two?!) This was different from Jets camp the year before- I did really well. Still, the special teams coach called with the news I dreaded: ‘Alan, I am really disappointed. They’re not going to take you.’ On one hand, I couldn’t have done any better and left with my head held high. But I was crushed, too. This had been my dream since I played pee wee football, and it was over. I sighed and told myself, ‘Well, I’ll call WBIR back.’ And that was how they hired me off the street to do weekend sports on the air! It points to this reality: You never know where God is going to place you in life, but when He does, the question is: What are you going to do with it once you’re there? You’re given an opportunity- what are you going to do with it? 

Little by little, I learned, and I ended up spending 43 years as a full-time broadcaster. I did all kinds of things. At one point I was simultaneously hosting a country dance show on The Nashville Network, was sports director at WIVK, and did a noon show on Channel 8. The dance show ended after a year. And then I left WIVK because Channel 8 wanted me to be there full time –do an entertainment show, do news stories, etc.- and I said ‘Okay.’ For a long time, I had a vague sense there must’ve been some reason God led me away from football and into broadcasting. I was probably 15 years into the business when I finally got it. Driving on a clover leaf to get onto the interstate, I was thinking about the story I was going to do that day, and I felt God saying, ‘You know, Alan, you’re doing decent stories; news of the day. But what are you really doing vocationally for my kingdom?’ Right then, it all made sense: God had led me here to broadcast stories of faith and encouragement. I suddenly knew that’s what I was going to do in my job. It was a defining moment. And it worked out. In addition to eventually getting promoted to evening news anchor, I was able to spend the next two decades-plus doing stories of faith and inspiration- management didn’t argue with that. Could I have done these stories in New York? Maybe not. But I could in East Tennessee. I retired two years ago, and about a month later some businesspeople came to me and said, ‘Alan, we’re willing to finance you and a production company. You make it your business, and you tell stories that can inspire; that could change a life, including focusing on faith.’ I welled up and thought, ‘What an incredible opportunity!’ So that’s what I’m doing now. The show is called ‘Going My Way with Alan Williams.’ I unpack one story per week that airs multiple times during the week. It focuses on the positive people and things in our community. And the production is way better than when I was in news. Then it was just a camera and a light bulb. Here, I’ve got a three-camera shoot each time! You can catch the show on WVLT or the ‘Going My Way with Alan Williams’ YouTube channel, where all the episodes are posted.

Looking back, I still get a little emotional thinking about what might have been if I’d played in the NFL. I had the talent. But God was calling me to something better: telling stories that have the power to change lives. That’s a responsibility I take seriously, because not many people have this sort of a platform. To help keep the Lord and His standards before me, I wear a little wristband with three words on it: humility, grace, forgiveness. When you think, ‘What is it that I need in my life more than anything?’, those three words pretty much sum it up for me. I’m in a business that’s ego-driven like you wouldn’t believe, so this bracelet can be a reminder: ‘Dial it down, Alan!’ The word ‘humility’ also reminds me I can go to some dark places if I’m not vigilant. Temptations of all kinds are never far- it’s frustrating because I always try to be on guard, and I’m bombarded, I feel, all the time. Social media especially bombards you. You can see an attractive woman on there and think, ‘Okay, I want to know or see more.’ Or you go out with some friends and have one drink –an adult beverage- and realize how quickly that could turn into several more drinks. In situations like those, I remember, ‘I’ve got an influence here.’ It takes so long to build respect, trust, and integrity. And you could lose it in two seconds. You see it all the time. So I’m constantly aware of that (and my wife really reminds me of it, too- I’m glad!). It just bothers me that, at 67 years old, I get to that point. But we’re dealing with an evil entity here in The Tempter. I’ve come to see these sorts of temptations never totally go away (which is why ‘grace’ and ‘forgiveness’ are also so vital for our moments of struggle and sin). So what you do? I try to fortify myself with meditation, with Scripture, with prayer as a rhythm for life instead of a chore during quiet time– God does tell us to pray without ceasing, after all. I have such a unique platform, and I cherish it, and by His grace I want to keep it and finish strong. 

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