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Broncos' Javonte Williams relies on faith, family in recovery from knee surgery

Williams spotlights foster care for kids through his foundation
Javonte Williams
Javonte Williams round up.jpeg
Posted at 10:40 AM, Dec 12, 2022

DENVER — Javonte Williams features a story that grabs you by the wrist.

He is recovering from an ugly knee injury, tearing his ACL on Oct. 2 against the Raiders. For Williams, the experience proved jarring. He had never been seriously hurt. Now, he's two months into a roughly 10- to 12-month journey back.

Faith, family and friends have helped as the Broncos standout running back has gone from immobile to ditching his crutches and rehabbing nearly three hours a day.

"My faith and my support system is what really got me through it. My first two days in Dallas after the surgery, I was in bed and I couldn't move my knee at all. I was just sitting there staring at the ceiling and asking God, saying, 'Please help me.' And I’ve got players like Bradley Chubb, Courtland Sutton, K.J. Hamler texting me every day, telling me I was going to be alright — that they had been through it," Williams told Denver7.

Broncos' Javonte Williams relies on faith, family in recovery from knee surgery

"They let me know I was going to be good. I don’t need to worry about anything. Just keep going. And I had my parents with me the whole time to talk to and help me if I needed anything. Everybody in my circle was there for me," he continued.

The nosedive of the Broncos' coincided with Williams' absence. He brought an edge, running with violent intentions. Through four games, he averaged 4.3 yards a carry, while catching 16 passes. He was the most reliable weapon on an offense that has eclipsed 20 points three times this season. In his first two seasons, Williams' statistics speak to his promise: 250 attempts, 1,107 rushing yards and 59 catches for seven total touchdowns.

Having Williams as a safety blanket in the backfield can't be overstated as Russell Wilson, coming off his best game as a Bronco in the loss to the Chiefs, aims to rebound next season. Williams is confident he will return and make an impact, though the timeline remains uncertain.

"I am really just listening to everything my doctors say and taking every day of rehab as my practice and my game. I am attacking that like a game. Whenever it happens when I am back, that’s when it’s meant to happen," Williams said. "This is my first surgery ever. When I first got up (after the hit), I thought I was OK and I tried to walk, and it was kind of unstable and that’s when I laid back down. ... But now, I am starting to work out my upper body and things like that. It’s always hard watching your team lose and you can’t do anything about it. It might take time to turn this around, but I see how hard the guys work. We are going to get it figured out."

Williams' injury came with a blessing. It allowed him to focus more time on launching his foundation. He recently held his first event — The Mile High Celebrity Round-Up — raising more than $225,000. The proceeds will go towards Williams' first Impact Zone installed in a Colorado foster care center and for bedroom makeovers for foster children who have been placed in foster care or adopted.

This cause is personal for Williams. He has a 2-year-old adopted sister Ryleigh who went through the foster care system. Jermaine and Shekemia Williams, Williams' parents, fostered Ryleigh at 4 weeks old. Ryleigh's parents battled drug addiction. The Williams adopted her a few months later.

"I have a foster sister. And it really touched me seeing everything she went through, even before she was born — the way her parents were and how she was treated when her mom was still pregnant with her. Seeing mom, grandmother and dad take her in and try to give somebody else the life me and my sisters had really meant a lot," Williams said.

"It’s always been a dream since I was little to help people. Now that I have a platform, it’s really something I want to do. Things just took off. Really, I want to bring awareness to it. I want to let people know that life is a blessing, no matter how rich or poor you are."

Jermaine and Shekemia joined Javonte at his downtown Denver event last week. They have lived with him since his surgery, with dad admitting, "we decided we weren't going to leave him until he was able to do everything on his own."

Javonte didn't see Ryleigh much early on between his college schedule at North Carolina and time in the NFL. Now, they are together every day. The smile that creased Williams' face when he mentioned her name lit up the room.

"Seeing her grow up, you can tell she’s getting smarter every day," Williams said. "It’s something to watch and marvel at."

Javonte was raised in Wallace, N.C., a small town where everyone gets a nickname. Jermaine is "Big Pookie," Shekemia is "Kit Kat," and Javonte is "Little Pookie." When Javonte left for college leaving an empty nest, the opportunity to help Ryleigh was an easy decision.

"I couldn't take the silence of not having any kids around," Shekemia said.

"We were actually into fostering to start with. But I told my wife I didn’t want to get attached and have them take the child away. And when we had an opportunity to adopt Ryleigh, we jumped at it," Jermaine added.

Seeing the family interact testifies to how close they are. Javonte could not stop talking about Ryleigh, while joking that he got his dad to wear a cowboy hat for the first time. Javonte's parents, meanwhile, beamed at his progress on and off the field.

"He's doing awesome in his recovery, working so hard," Shekemia said. "Proud is an understatement. I never saw this coming, to start his own foundation. Faith first, family second. It's always been that way since he was a baby. Bible, books and then sports. To see him help with the foster care, we are so proud of him."