For many years they harbored a secret, but then, what family hasn't? Just because this secret involved missing eggs—two of them hard-boiled—is no reason to dismiss it as trivial. When Lawrence Williams removed his belt and instructed his sons, Malcolm, Achilles and Aeneas, to drop trou and form what the Williams boys grimly refer to as a "butt line," there was nothing trivial about it.
While her breakfast eggs boiled, Lawrence's wife, Lillian, had gotten ready for work. When she returned to the kitchen on this fateful morning in the late 1970s, her eggs had been eaten, and none of her boys would fess up. That evening, to coax the truth from his tight-lipped sons, Lawrence took his belt to their behinds. He worked his way up and down the butt line until Aeneas, the baby, blurted out, "I ate 'em!"
"I look the fall," says Aeneas, who guesses he was nine at the time of the Egg Inquisition. That means Achilles was 11 and Malcolm 14. Aeneas took the fall, but did he eat the eggs? For years it remained a mystery.
Over time evidence arose incriminating Aeneas: He grew up to become an extraordinarily adept thief of oblong objects. Now 29 and laboring as a cornerback in the NFL backwater of Arizona, he has intercepted 36 passes in 6½ pro seasons. Since the start of the 1994 season he has had 26 interceptions; in that span, no other NFL player has had more. What makes Williams the league's most dangerous corner—sorry, Deion—is his knack for delivering what he calls the "quick six": He has returned a half-dozen interceptions for touchdowns. It's a measure of Williams's brilliance and the dreadfulness of Arizona's offense that after Sunday's 13-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, his two touchdowns tied him for the team lead.
In his last eight games Williams has returned three interceptions for TDs. The NFL career record is nine, by Kenny Houston, who played 14 NFL seasons, six of them with the Houston Oilers. Lawrence Williams declares with uncharacteristic rashness, "I guarantee Aeneas will break that record."
You've got to like his chances. Williams is an avowed teetotaler, a fitness fiend and a devoted student of the game. Several years ago Houston took a call from a perfect stranger. "I called him up in Houston, then went to visit him," says Williams. "We talked about techniques, footwork, strategy. When someone has been successful, I have a passion for finding out what made him that way."
His passion for learning extends to books. As an all-city cornerback at Fortier High in New Orleans, he turned down a nonathletic scholarship to Dartmouth to pay to attend Southern University, where Achilles was already a student. (Southern was also the alma mater of Lawrence, a diligent student who was once informed, upon attempting to register for classes, that he'd been suspended. It turned out he'd been mistaken for another Lawrence Williams, a typical mix-up that he and Lillian were determined to spare their sons.)
Despite playing at Fortier with three future NFL defensive backs (Ashley Ambrose of the Cincinnati Bengals; Maurice Hurst, who played for the New England Patriots; and Kevin Lewis, who played for the San Francisco 49ers), Williams felt no compulsion to enrich Southern's proud tradition. He didn't play football as a freshman or sophomore because he preferred to hit the books. His junior year, a week before the start of the season, he was leaving the library when, he says, he "smelled fall in the air" and hankered to play again. Five games into the season he was starting. Three-and-a-half years later the Cardinals took him in the third round of the 1991 draft. In his first pro season he started 15 games, picked off an NFC-leading six passes and was named the conference's defensive rookie of the year. "That's just like Aeneas," says Arizona middle linebacker Eric Hill. "Nothing about this guy is normal."
Certainly he's abnormal when it comes to two things: bowleggedness and bullheadedness. "But you'd be surprised how many great corners are bowlegged," says Cardinals vice president Larry Wilson, himself a Hall of Fame defensive back. "I don't know if it helps guys come out of their backpedal quicker or what, but there's something to it."
Easygoing and mellow at other times, on game days Williams is stubborn and prideful, refusing to concede what most corners must—the short pass. He prefers to spend the entire game in press coverage, in the receiver's face. "For most guys who try that, it's just a matter of time before somebody runs by them," says Arizona defensive backs coach Larry Marmie. "So you line up off of receivers and give them the short pass. But Aeneas isn't interested in that. He wants to take away everything."