At one point during D.J. Williams’ professional career, his mother walked into his closet, took a look at all the new, unused clothes hanging there and shook her head.
It seemed more than any one person could ever use, so she took some of the clothes and donated them to charity. And that, quite simply, is how the idea for Home Team Closet, an organization that collects gently used clothing from athletes and donates them to folks in need, was born. "I had a shopping problem my first few years in the NFL and after each season, she’d go in my closet and pull things,” Williams said of his mother. “This had a tag on it for two years and I hadn’t worn it yet. She would go and donate it to less fortunate people.”
The group also provided food donated from Vilma’s restaurant, Brother Jimmy’s BBQ, which gave the Hurricanes—past and present—a chance to sit down and spend time with some of the Camillus House residents.
For Williams, the opportunity to bring Home Team Closet to Miami was two-fold. One, it gave him the opportunity to reach out to the community where he played college football, but he says coming to Miami also gave him the chance to show the Hurricanes that they have an obligation to serve the community where they play.
“I want the current players to know that giving back is important,” Williams said. “Nobody here made it by themselves. Giving back is important to the community. Kind of build a family atmosphere. That’s what the University of Miami was like when I was here. It still is and I just want to keep building it and get better.”
Added Vilma, “It means everything to us. We’ve always tried to leave a positive legacy. We’ve always talked about the football side, where we won a lot of games and there’s a lot of tradition. But now we want to talk about off-the-field and perform. The only way we can show them is by doing. So we hope some of these guys hopefully go to the NFL, do well and make a lot of money but then they also recognize that there’s another side, another component to being a great person on and off the field.”
The hope, now, Williams said is that Home Team Closet can hold a yearly event at Miami as it continues to grow. The former linebacker would like the foundation to one day, have clothing donation bins in locker rooms across not only the NLF, but the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball as well.
“An NFL locker room has 63 to 68 guys. Imagine if everybody on the team donated. Then imagine if all 30 teams donated,” Williams said. “The whole plan is it get bins in all professional locker rooms, in workplaces.”