KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Cleveland Browns interim head coach Gregg Williams came up through the ranks of college and NFL coaching on the defensive side of the football, but he grew up wanting to play quarterback like his hometown hero, Chiefs Hall of Famer Len Dawson.
“Len Dawson was the guy I revered and wanted to be like,” Williams said.
Born and raised in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, just fewer than 30 miles from Kansas City, Williams grew up during the franchise's golden age. The Chiefs won two AFL during his youth, including Super Bowl IV when he was 11 years old.
“I'm a die-hard Chiefs fan, always have been,” Williams said.
Each summer Williams returns to Excelsior Springs for a fundraising event to raise money for the town's youth athletics programs. His foundation says it has donated more than $800,000 to schools and organizations in the area.
“I'm very blessed that every year I say it can't get better and each and every year it gets better and better and better,” Williams said.
Each year Williams' foundation hosts a live auction with about 70 items, including a VIP experience package. The winner receives sideline passes to a game where Williams is coaching and gets to watch practice, tour the team's facilities and stay at the same hotel as the players before the game.
The top bidder in this year's auction to travel to Cleveland to watch the Browns battle the Chiefs, Williams said, is a member of the Red Coaters, a service organization of local business leaders who help the club with community projects.
“I said, 'Look, I can't pay your doctor bill if you wear that red coat in Browns' stadium. You can't wear that coat in Browns' Stadium because it will not go over well,' and they were all laughing,” Williams said.
His ties to the Chiefs also extend to head coach Andy Reid, whom Williams first met when Reid served as offensive line coach at Missouri. Williams later spent four seasons as assistant head coach with Washington while Reid was head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I have so much respect for Andy Reid,” Williams said. “He and I go way, way back, back at his University of Missouri days, back when I was barely getting started with the Oilers and coming down there, and I used to speak at the University of Missouri on some of their coaches clinics when he was still on that staff back then in the old days.”
Life hasn't been all wine and roses for Williams, however. After his three-year stint as head coach of the Buffalo Bills, Williams returned to his role as a defensive coach for Washington, Jacksonville and New Orleans.
“I've had 11 other opportunities since I left Buffalo on letters coming in to be a head coach, and four of them I didn't even have to go interview, just sign the contract,” Williams claimed.
Then Williams received a one-year suspension from the NFL for his involvement in the New Orleans Saints bountygate scandal in 2012. The league alleged Williams ran a bounty program that paid bonuses to players for deliberate attempts to injure opponents. But Williams never considered leaving football.
“I love what I do,” he said. “I turned down the opportunity to go into several other professions and do what I'm doing. There's no other thing that I want to do other than this.”