In the April 11 issue of Sports Illustrated due to hit newsstands this week, Atlanta magazine senior associate editor and SI freelancer Thomas Lake revisits the murder of Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams. The lengthy and engrossing article explores the backgrounds of Williams, his convicted killer "Little" Willie Clark, and Williams' friend and teammate Javon Walker, in whose arms Williams perished. While expectedly saddening, Lake's retelling of the events from that fateful New Year's Eve of 2006 casts more light on the roles ex-Broncos WR Brandon Marshall and his cousin played in the night-long conflict, including the perceived likelihood that they were the intended targets of Clark's gunfire.
While snippets of Marshall's testimony and of Walker's statements to Denver police had come out in earlier local media coverage, Lake shares larger segments of the ex-Broncos' words and shrouds them in haunting context. As Mike Klis points out, the story paints a compassionate picture of Walker, a player whose star fell in Denver not long after Williams' murder. Lake's story is of course a must-read for all Broncos fans, but deserves wider attention for its perspective on the perils of sudden riches and stardom that young athletes face with every new season (and in every sport).
While the rags-to-riches/outhouse-to-penthouse side of the tale is not unique, it is important to remember that these guys aren't simply caricatures who run across our big screen TVs on Sundays.. They are real people. It's tempting to think of them as millionaires--complete with all the connotations we associate with the latest edition of Forbes magazine. In reality, however, many of these players are young men who have come from little.
Yet they struggle with so much.