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Reminders of Williams remain

The Denver Broncos will spend this season remembering the life of slain teammate Darrent Williams.

August 19, 2007|From the Associated Press

DENVER -- For good or bad, the reminders of Darrent Williams are everywhere.

The Denver Broncos end each practice in a circle, shouting his catchphrase, "All Ready!"

The slain cornerback's signature saying is also emblazoned across T-shirts the team printed up for its off-season strength and conditioning program.

His old nameplate and photos are tucked above cornerback Domonique Foxworth's locker.

Wide receiver Javon Walker said he still has the bloodied shirt from that awful morning when Williams died in his arms in what is believed to be a gang-related killing. Walker said he kept the unlaundered shirt to remind him of his friend and the fragility of life.

On the back of each helmet is a decal with the Nos. 27 and 29, in honor of Williams and backup running back Damien Nash, who died following a charity basketball game in St. Louis two months after Williams was slain in a New Year's Day drive-by shooting that remains unsolved.

Many players are wearing dark blue rubber wristbands with Williams' name and number in burnt orange.

All proceeds from the Mike Shanahan Golf Classic this summer and from Broncos license plates sold over the second half of the year will go toward building the Darrent Williams Memorial Teen Center at the Boys & Girls Club in Denver's Montbello neighborhood.

A statue is under commission at the teen center, which is under construction not far from the spot where the energetic cornerback with bulging biceps and a ceaseless smile was gunned down. A monument is being built at Invesco Field, where Williams will be honored during a game this season.

The record crowds that packed the practice fields at camp included dozens of fans wearing his jersey.

And there was the real No. 27 on game film the defensive backs watched, rewinded time and again to show Williams picking off a pass and taking it to the house.

There are laughs all around -- and some tears.

"Different things come up and remind you of his memory on a daily basis. Some of those you celebrate. Some of those bring you down," safety John Lynch said. "There's a number of vivacious guys in this league, but there was something unique and very special to him. He had a spirit about him that lifted everybody."

It's a spirit the Broncos are still trying to clutch eight months after the senseless slaying that left two young children without a father, yanked at the heart of a franchise and jolted a community to its soul.

"I think everybody embraces Darrent's memory in their own way," coach Mike Shanahan said. "I can only speak for myself and I just said, 'Hey, the guy upstairs wanted him, and he got a great guy.' He's going to be missed by this football team. But this football team will embrace his memory. We're not afraid to talk about him."

For some, however, Williams' slaying remains too horrific to discuss -- notably Walker, who has refused to talk about it with anyone except HBO, with which he shared some disturbing details of the shooting last week.

In an interview on "Real Sports" that opened fresh wounds and maybe even a can of worms, Walker revealed that teammate Brandon Marshall was at the center of an argument that occurred during a New Year's Eve party at a downtown Denver club.

Walker said that at closing time, Marshall and his cousin exchanged heated words with two men who had been kicked out of the club earlier that night. Witnesses said the men flashed gang signs and confronted Williams and his group after taking offense when Marshall sprayed them with champagne.

After both men tried to intervene, Walker was invited into Williams' limo and they drove off into the night. Moments later, their stretch Hummer was sprayed with bullets, one of which pierced Williams' neck.

Marshall, who had left the club in another vehicle, declined to comment on what Walker told HBO.

Walker also said he doesn't need any grief counseling and is dealing with the loss on his own, though there are reminders all around him.

This week, the Broncos spent several days in Irving, Texas, practicing with the Dallas Cowboys not far from where they attended Williams' funeral in Fort Worth.

On a particularly somber note for the Broncos, Williams' slaying led NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to order the league's annual security program to include expanded presentations on gangs and guns, spokesman Greg Aiello said.

Videos on the topics were added for the first time and one of them featured a warning from Williams' mother, Rosalind Williams, to be careful in public. Law enforcement officers from each NFL city were on hand during the briefings to all 32 teams to localize the presentation regarding gangs. And the league is advising players for the first time not to own or carry a gun, even legally. (Williams was unarmed when he was killed).

Despite the Broncos having kicked in a $100,000 reward for information, no one has been charged in connection with Williams' killing.

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