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Cincinnati Bengals defensive back Roy Williams, recognized as one of the NFL’s most powerful hitters at safety, will speak in a seminar about the reality of substance abuse on April 6 [WEDNESDAY] at East Central University.

Williams, who was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys after his junior year at the University of Oklahoma, will join Reggie Whitten, the founder of FATE (Fighting Addiction Through Education), and Jim Priest, FATE’s executive director, for the program. It will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Ataloa Theatre in ECU’s Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center.

ECU’s Brandon Whitten Institute for Addiction and Recovery is hosting the program on “Substance Abuse: Perception vs. Reality.” Holli Witherington, the institute’s executive director, also will participate. The program is free and open to the public.

Counselors, therapists and related specialists also have been invited. Continuing education units have been approved for licensed professional counselors, licensed marriage and family therapists, peer recovery support specialists and licensed alcohol and drug counselors. CEU’s also have been requested for other related fields.

Photo of Reggie Whitten
 Reggie Whitten

Reggie Whitten, an Oklahoma City attorney, established the institute last year at ECU and named it after his late son. Whitten has worked tirelessly to educate young people about the dangers of addictions since Brandon Whitten died at age 25. His son was addicted to prescription medications and alcohol.

After his son died in a motorcycle crash in 2002, Whitten founded the Whitten-Newman Foundation to teach youngsters about the dangers of substance abuse and drug addictions. The foundation also helps fund two other organizations Whitten later co-founded, Pros for Africa and Pros for Vets, as well as FATE.

Whitten has spoken to packed audiences before at ECU. He has become an expert on addictions and gives a compelling presentation of how he did not understand why his son could not just quit, and how addictions killed his son. Whitten said he now understands that alcohol, drugs and tobacco change a person’s brain chemistry.

Roy Williams also participates in Pros for Africa, a group of athletes and other professionals who have traveled to Africa twice to help dig water wells and make a positive impact on the people of Africa. Pros for Africa is a non-profit relief organization headquartered in Oklahoma City.

He formed the Roy Williams Safety Net Foundation to ensure that low-income, single-parent households in Dallas are provided with support and assistance. After signing his first pro contract, he made a $100,000 contribution to the University of Oklahoma for a strength-training facility that bears his name.

Photo of Roy Williams
 Roy Williams

Williams has worked with a wide range of organizations in the Dallas area, including United Way, Salvation Army, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Taste of the NFL and various hospitals. He also has been an NFL spokesman in the league’s national public service announcements for United Way.

He played three seasons (1999-2001) at OU. As a junior he won the Bronko Nagurski Award as the nation’s top defender and the Jim Thorpe Award as the top defensive back. He also was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and earned consensus All-America recognition. He posted a school career record of 27 passes defensed in addition to nine career interceptions. During his sophomore year in 2000, the unbeaten OU team claimed a national title with an Orange Bowl victory over Florida State.

In 2002 Williams was drafted by Dallas in the first round (eighth overall) and enjoyed immediate success, starting every game. In 2003 he earned a starter’s role in the Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors from the Associated Press and The Sporting News.

He was placed on the reserve/injured list in 2008 after fracturing his forearm and reinjuring it when he attempted to return to action.

At Dallas he played in five consecutive Pro Bowls, in 98 of a possible 99 Dallas games with 96 starts and is credited with three seasons of 100-plus tackles.

Williams was released by Dallas in March 2009 and signed as a free agent with the Bengals two months later. He led the team in tackles (nine) in his Bengals debut on Sept. 13, 2009. He re-signed with Cincinnati in March 2010.

 He has 20 career interceptions, including one in postseason, and three interception returns for touchdowns.

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