Leonard Williams noticed the acquainted face as he made his means by way of the foyer of the South Florida resort.
Outdoors, by the valet, was a person the Jets star had not seen in 10 years — his father. Clenon Williams had spent a decade in a Florida jail, going away when Leonard was simply 14. Clenon was launched final month and reconnected together with his son for the primary time on Nov. 3, the evening earlier than the Jets confronted the Dolphins.
“I simply checked out him,” Leonard Williams instructed The Put up on Wednesday. “I don’t know. I didn’t count on it to be tremendous emotional as a result of I’m simply not that kind of man and neither is my dad. We’re simply not that kind of individuals. However once we noticed one another and hugged one another, we simply held onto one another for a extremely very long time. You possibly can really feel the power going by way of one another.”
The next day, Williams performed in entrance of his father for the primary time since he was a freshman on the junior varsity workforce at Mainland Excessive Faculty in Daytona Seashore, Fla. When Clenon was locked up, he missed out on his son turning into one of many prime soccer recruits within the nation, finally going to USC after which turning into the No. 6 decide within the 2015 NFL Draft by the Jets.
Clenon stood on the sideline earlier than the Jets-Dolphins recreation, sporting his son’s 2016 Professional Bowl jersey, then watched him play an NFL recreation.
“I really feel prefer it’s surreal for him,” Leonard mentioned.
The 2 will spend Thanksgiving collectively for the primary time in additional than a decade on Thursday. Clenon Williams was flying in Wednesday evening and Leonard will host his father, his two brothers, his sister, an aunt and a cousin for the vacation.
“It’s going to be superior,” Leonard Williams mentioned. “That is the primary time in a very long time the place we’re getting collectively and I’m feeling nothing however pleasure about it.”
The youthful Williams by no means visited his father on the Marion Correctional Establishment in Ocala, Fla. The 2 talked by telephone, however Williams mentioned he held a grudge in opposition to his father for a very long time. Clenon was convicted of quite a lot of fees, probably the most severe being theft with a lethal weapon. The elder Williams adopted his son’s soccer profession from jail. Once they reconnected this month, Clenon confirmed Leonard newspaper clippings of tales about Leonard that he had saved in jail.
Leonard mentioned the foundation of his father’s points was an dependancy to medicine.
“That was probably the most tough factor rising up, the drug half,” Williams mentioned. “That’s the explanation I didn’t forgive him for some time. I felt like he selected that over us at a sure level. I had some anger towards him.”
The Jets defensive finish had a tough upbringing due to his father’s drug drawback. Williams mentioned his father is a brilliant man, who earned a school diploma and held a high-paying job when he was younger. However then he would get again into medicine, find yourself in jail and the household can be on the transfer.
“When he would mess up, we might find yourself shedding the home,” Williams mentioned. “He was making actually good cash. If he went to jail, we couldn’t afford the home and we needed to transfer out. That occurred so much. I moved round so much.”
Leonard was born in Bakersfield, Calif., however he bounced round to Sacramento, Michigan and Arizona earlier than he was even 10 years outdated.
Finally the household settled in Daytona Seashore. At instances, the Williams household needed to keep in homeless shelters or a motel.
Williams mentioned it was not till he attended a management class in 2017 that he actually forgave his father. Nonetheless, when Clenon, 51, was launched from jail in October, Leonard didn’t wish to welcome him proper again into his life.
“When he first obtained out, I used to be not tremendous wanting to be like ‘Oh, what’s up?’ and be round him on a regular basis,” Leonard mentioned. “I wished to him to love show himself a little bit bit, simply naturally. That was what was in my head. I really feel like he’s been going above and past to place himself again into our lives. That’s the explanation I’m giving him an opportunity now.”
Leonard mentioned Clenon has proven he needs to make up for misplaced time. They textual content one another each day. Leonard usually wakes as much as a message from his father. The household has a gaggle textual content chain by way of which they reconnect.
“I don’t suppose you possibly can ever make up 10 years of misplaced time, however the truth that he’s out and again in our lives is an important factor,” Leonard mentioned.
Leonard not too long ago helped his father get a spot close to the place Leonard’s mom, Aviva Russek, lives in Florida. Leonard mentioned he hopes his father can keep out of hassle now that he has served his sentence.
“I really feel like he’s in a extremely good place now,” Leonard Williams mentioned. “I can see it in his eyes. I can see it in his physique language, his face. I might simply inform as a result of I do know him so nicely.”