Once upon a time, there was an NFL halfback, kick and punt returner, so devastatingly fast, that he helped the greatest team in Football History win its first two Super Bowls.
Travis “Roadrunner” Williams attended Arizona State Universiy in the Valley of the Sun, after first attending Contra Costa College. He was selected in the 4th round of the 1967 draft at 93d overall, reputedly on Lombardi’s word.
All he did in 1967 was shock the world. On 18 kickoff returns, he averaged 41.1 yards a return with 4 returns for touchdowns.
That is still the NFL record for yards per kickoff return. It was set 50 years ago. By Travis Roadrunner Williams of Green Bay.
He ran the ball 35 times for 188 yards & caught 5 passes for 80 yards scoring 2 more TDs as the Packers won the Super Bowl.
1968 was much the same, and the Pack was Back to win another Super Bowl. By 1969, Williams was the regular HB in the sweep offense and had his best year–but Lombardi was gone. In 1970, Phil Bengston decided Donny Anderson would be better than Williams as the running back. The 1969 Pack went 8-6. The 1970 Pack, with less Williams, went 6-8. Lombardi was like a father to Williams.
Williams was shipped off to the Rams, where he another big year. He was back in hometown California.
He might have been on his way to the Hall of Fame. He had 918 all purpose yards for the Rams in 1971 and averaged 29.7 yards per kickoff return, leading the league, including a league best 105 yard TD return.
But in 1972, he suffered a career ending knee injury.
(and references cited therein)
By 1977, Williams was destitute, lost his house, and was homeless.
here he is being interviewed, poignantly, in 1988, about being homeless, a former Super Bowl megastar with the Green Bay Packers;
an LA Times story from 1989;
and finally, in “The Last Return” by Bruce Newman of Sports Illustrated, March 11, 1991, the final story;
Travis Roadrunner Williams was 45 when he died in 1991.
He still holds a number of NFL records; Kickoff returns for TD in a quarter – 2; kickoff return average for a season, 41.2.
In 1969 he accumulated 1517 all purpose yards for the Green Bay Packers–189 on punt returns, 517 on kick returns, 536 rushing & 275 receiving passes. He led the team with 9 touchdowns, 1 by punt return, 1 by kickoff return, 4 rushing and 3 receiving.
That was in a 14 game schedule.
He was only 23 years old.
A story of a man.