#37 Bobby Williams

SportsFootball, Track & Field

Nine-and-a-half seconds.

In the illustrious athletic career of Lincoln High great Bobby Williams, the number still stands out.

Forget for a moment that he amassed 3,094 all-purpose yards as a four-year starting halfback for NAIA power Central Oklahoma or that he led the NFL in average yards per kickoff return for Detroit in 1969.

It’s the winning time by Williams in a now legendary 100-yard dash that still raises eyebrows.

Racing against some of the state’s top sprinters on a cinder track at the 1961 Hastings Invitational, Williams outran the competition in an event in which the top four finishers broke the 10-second mark.

His winning time of 9.5 seconds is still mind-boggling.

“I just competed to win. I didn’t care about times,” Williams said later.

The Lincoln High multi-sport standout, twice a double winner in the 100 and 220 at the state track meet, was also the first Nebraska high school athlete to break the 24-foot barrier in the long jump. His mark was topped by Gale Sayers on the final jump of the Class A state meet at Memorial Stadium later that year.

Williams scored 29 touchdowns during his final season at Lincoln High. The Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame and Nebraska Black Sports Hall of Fame member also starred in basketball as a junior and senior after winning a city championship and finishing third in the state as a 175-pound wrestler as a sophomore.

At Central Oklahoma, Williams didn’t skip a beat. A starter from the time he arrived on campus, he helped the Bronchos to a 25-11 record and the 1962 NAIA championship while also competing in track. His 880-yard relay team won its league championship. Williams was inducted into the UCO Hall of Fame in 1995.

Drafted in 1966 by St. Louis, Williams spent two seasons with the Cardinals before being traded to Detroit. After a year on the taxi squad, he played three seasons with the Lions. In 1969, he averaged a league-best 33.1 yards per kickoff return. He also had two interceptions for St. Louis in 1967.

Williams, born in Alabama before growing up in Lincoln, died in Oklahoma City in 2012 at age 70.

Quick facts about Williams

Played for: Lincoln High, Central Oklahoma State, St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Lions

Best athlete from Nebraska played with or against: Bob Hohn and Gale Sayers

Best moment as an athlete: Running the first 9.5-second time in the 100 yards in Nebraska

Early sign of greatness: Williams and his younger brother, Henry, played baseball one summer on a Lincoln Air Force baseball team that had some older players in their 20s. Williams, a junior in high school at the time, and his brother competed at the same level as the older players.

Nebraska 100: 2005 edition

Williams was No. 36 in the inaugural Nebraska 100 list in 2005. See more about the 2005 list »