Rashid Williams is a 26-year-old NFL hopeful from Penn State, though you’ve never heard his name over the Beaver Stadium loudspeakers. Williams didn’t play football during his time in Happy Valley. In fact, he hasn’t played football since he was in high school nearly a decade ago, according to this Yahoo! Sports profile published last weekend.
Williams attended Holy Family University, a Division II school in Philadelphia, where he was a member of the school’s track team. He then attended Penn State and in its MBA program and later took a job with Frito Lay as a sales representative. Now this fall, after two tryouts with indoor football teams, he decided to try for something even bigger: the NFL.
He currently is living out of a van in Martinsville, NJ while he trains for the draft. He is homeless by choice. After leaving his job and life in Harrisburg, PA, he emptied his life savings, traded in his sedan for a used minivan, and used that money to train at TEST Parisi Football Academy.
TEST Parisi is known for its premiere combine prep program. The academy has produced stars like Baltimore Ravens’ Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco, Arizona Cardinals’ cornerback Patrick Peterson, and New York Jets’ linebacker Demario Davis, and countless others. Most other players have their agent pay for their combine training, but Williams pays for his own expenses.
“It is a sacrifice for sure, but I knew that putting myself through this program would be worth it in the end. Housing wasn’t included in the fee I paid,” Williams told Yahoo Sports. “So I traded in my car for this minivan. I eat in it, sleep in it. I park it overnight at nearby hotel so that I am safe.”
He parks his car wherever he can — hotels, gyms, and a Walmart. But as we know, the Northeast has been experiencing freezing temperatures and immense amounts of snow this winter.
Williams says that his body has acclimated to the cold temperatures since he has been doing this for more than six weeks. He stays at local libraries to stay warm for as long as he can before he goes to his van for the night. He sleeps in the back seat of his van with multiple layers of sweatpants and sweatshirts on every night. He huddles underneath blankets to stay warm and tries to read to keep his mind off the cold.
Williams is one of the first to arrive at the TEST facility each morning and spends his lunch break with the other players, trying to refresh himself on all of the basics of a game that he hasn’t played since high school. He uses every opportunity he can to climb one step closer to his goal, however unlikely — an NFL contract that will support his family and fulfill his dreams.
The Penn Stater is making an incredible sacrifice for a future that is incredibly unknown.
“I would never say that it wasn’t worth it. Whenever I have doubts, I try to keep a positive mind. I don’t want this to all go to waste. I try to stay positive,” Williams said. “I haven’t thought about asking for help because I don’t want this to be wasted. I appreciate the opportunity just to do this. I ask myself, ‘Why not?’ and I know someday it will be worth it.”