These Pros Won Championships. Now They Want To Change Alabama Kids' Lives

2 Former Pro Athletes Return Home to Make Real Change, With the Help of Wind Creek.


Do you have dreams of winning a national championship? Are you captivated by the roar of a crowd in the stands? While many of us have pondered the life of a pro athlete, the odds of becoming one are very, very rare, and the road to winning is often long and fraught with challenges. Those who make it don’t always return to their former communities — but when they do, it’s special.

Two such athletes who began their careers at the University of Alabama have done just that. Their experiences on the football field and basketball court didn’t just earn them a paycheck and high accolades — they prepared them for a future of mentoring young people and changing lives for the better. Meet the local athletes who have brought their important missions home with them.

A different kind of academic success

Former Dallas Cowboy Sherman Williams hasn’t played in a while, but he’s still very much in the game of life. The retired football player was a member of the Super Bowl XXX team that put the Pittsburgh Steelers solidly in the No. 2 spot. Today, he’s working hard to defeat societal problems, especially those that affect youth, through his Palmer Williams Group nonprofit.

One of the Palmer Williams Group’s most notable outreach initiatives is Life Sync Academy, a 10-week program that reaches 30 kids ages 9 to 14 each school semester. The program uses a holistic approach to equip preteens and teenagers with skills to deal with the social challenges they’ll be faced with before those challenges become a problem. Mentors work with kids to address financial literacy, alcohol and substance abuse, and crime reduction, among other topics.

“Our mission is to make a generational change through development programs,” Williams said. “While these kids may come from an area of poverty or high crime, we want them to feel that when they do get into society as an adult, they still have the tools to compete in the job force.”

Life Sync Academy’s methods are based on expert input, but Williams is very hands on, using his own experience of incarceration to bring real talk to the kids.

“I tell the children, ‘I’ve been there; I know what it’s like. I know the decision you have to make to avoid it. If you make the wrong decisions, this is what will happen to you because it happened to me.’ That’s when they see that I’m just one of them,” Williams said.

He also shared that the program’s success is largely due to its partnership with Wind Creek Hospitality.

“Wind Creek has been a great supporter of the organization financially,” Williams said. “The funding is what’s important. Without the funds that they have provided, we would not be able to have this program. It would not even exist.”

Everyone needs a purpose

Jason Caffey, another former University of Alabama athlete and retired basketball player for the Chicago Bulls, has a similar mindset. He wants to use what he learned as a young athlete to challenge today’s kids in the community to be their best selves.

“As a former two-time NBA champion, I have seen and done it all,” Caffey said. “Having the fame and fortune, cars, and riches is great, but it is what you do with that fame and fortune is what truly counts. Having made mistakes in life and business, I have learned to stay focused on what matters most: purpose.”  

While he has been influential in a number of charity initiatives in the area, Caffey’s latest passions are his Universal Youth Foundation and The Caffey Cares Campaign for Children, which provides basketball camps in partnership with Wind Creek Hospitality and Universal Youth Foundation. Wind Creek’s generous donation has also allowed Caffey Cares to host several food drives, feeding more than 400 children. These two programs are just a few of the outreach opportunities Caffey sees in the community as he continues to focus on reaching children in Mobile and the surrounding areas to eradicate poverty, gun violence and food insecurity.

Caffey is no stranger to the obstacles faced by the youth of the area, and he has some words of wisdom for anyone feeling overwhelmed in difficult times.

“Write the vision, and make it plain,” he said. “Stay the course, commit, and attack the plan. In times like these, we must stay vigilant in creating opportunities for our families and our neighbors. We’re in this together.”

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September 18, 2020


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