Minneapolis dentist, former NFL lineman Williams dies at 66

July 12, 2012
Stan Goff

Issue 7

Long before professional athletes’ salaries skyrocketed, it was common for even star athletes to find off-season work to earn a little extra cash. You might see baseball players bartending in the winter and football players serving as bouncers or furniture movers in the summer, while hockey and basketball players might be doubling up as insurance salesmen while not in action.

Long before professional athletes’ salaries skyrocketed, it was common for even star athletes to find off-season work to earn a little extra cash. You might see baseball players bartending in the winter and football players serving as bouncers or furniture movers in the summer, while hockey and basketball players might be doubling up as insurance salesmen while not in action.

But John Williams, an All-America offensive lineman who went on to play 12 seasons in the NFL and appeared in two Super Bowls, used his off-seasons to study to become a dentist. The 66-year-old Williams, who has a dental practice in Minneapolis (Quality Family & Sedation), died Sunday while walking near his home, according to the Los Angeles Times.

According to the practice website, in 1974 with two NFL Super Bowls under his belt, Williams decided to pursue his passion for dentistry. Then playing for the Baltimore Colts, he went to college during the off-seasons to earn a dental degree from the University of Maryland at Baltimore. He officially retired from the NFL in 1980 after 12 years and established a dental practice in the inner city of Minneapolis.

Williams, who was born in Jackson, Miss., on Oct. 27, 1945, was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in the first round of the 1968 NFL Draft. He played four seasons with the Colts and was part of their championship squad that claimed a 16-13 victory over the Dallas Cowboys following the 1970 season.

He was traded to the Rams in 1972 and started at right offensive tackle for six years. Williams switched to guard in 1979 and helped the Rams reach the Super Bowl, where they fell 31-19 to Pittsburgh, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Williams had earned a bachelor's degree in education from Minnesota, where he starred as a three-year letterman for the Gophers. But with a desire to become a dentist, he began taking classes at the University of Maryland at Baltimore.

It took the 6-foot-3, 256-pound Williams five years as a part-time student before he earned his doctorate in dentistry, according to his obituary in the L.A. Times. He retired from the NFL after suffering an injury during the 1979 season and moved back to Minneapolis to open his dental office.

The Quality Family & Sedation website states that in addition to running a successful practice, Dr. Williams was trained in forensic dentistry and was a member of the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team, a program of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Following the Sept. 11 tragedy in New York City, he participated on the identification team at the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office.

Survivors include his wife, Barbara Butts Williams, and three children.