In Williams's third season at Southern—having earned his degree in four years, he was taking graduate courses in accounting—his 11 interceptions tied him with Maine's Claude Pettaway for the Division I-AA lead. A few days before the NFL draft Lawrence walked into the house, saw Aeneas on the couch and said disgustedly, "The grass needs cutting, my car needs to be washed, and you're sitting around like Prince Charming."
Little wonder that Aeneas remains humble despite having played in the last three Pro Bowls. But then, when you're a Cardinal, humility tends to be a permanent condition. Since Williams arrived, Arizona has gone 35-68 and never made the playoffs. This season it has been one of the unluckiest teams in the NFL, losing four of its six games by a total of eight points.
Win or lose, the Cardinals are always well represented at the postgame prayer circle. Some guys in Arizona's locker room and front office are uneasy over that. ("Whatever happened to separation of church and state?" asks one player, who suggests that some of his teammates "go overboard with the God stuff.") Coach Vince Tobin, himself a Catholic, isn't among the doubters. "I'm very comfortable with players expressing their faith," he says. "It's part of who they are. They draw strength from it. We get so many going the other way these days, you need some of your role models to stand up and profess their faith."
Tobin doesn't have to tell Williams twice. Despite having been wooed by several teams after the 1995 season, Williams, then a free agent, re-upped with the Red-birds. Why? Several teams would gladly have matched the five-year, $17 million contract he signed. But, says Aeneas, "once Tracy and I prayed, it became clear to us that I wasn't finished with the assignment the Lord had given me here in Arizona."
So he remains in the Valley of the Sun, picking off passes and saving souls. It's hard not to respect the discipline and conviction he brings to his assignments. So unquestioned is Williams as the Cardinals' spiritual leader that it is hard to imagine him as he once was: a follower of Achilles, the older brother out of whose shadow he has stepped, the older brother who leaned toward him at a family gathering five years ago and said, "I ate the eggs."