BY COLLEEN KANE
Editor’s note: This newspaper article originally appeared in the Aug. 13, 2006 issue of the Cincinnati Enquirer. It is reprinted with permission.
Todd Williams once rode a bike 2,800 miles across the United States in 14 days. He twice competed in France’s 783-mile Paris-Brest-Paris bicycle race, finishing in fewer than 56 hours in 2003. He rides more than 15,000 miles a year.
So when the Wyoming Youth Football League needed somebody to pull off a big bike ride to raise funds for its five teams, there was no better choice than the former Wyoming High offensive lineman.
Williams, a 46-year-old dentist who started for the Cowboys’ 1977 state championship team, spent last Saturday riding non-stop from the 50-yard line of the Wyoming Athletic Field to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. The route covered 268 miles to honor the 268 points in the team’s 1977 season. Williams arrived in just more than 15 hours, toting a football for this year’s season opener.
The ride was an effort to raise money for the year-old youth football league. Wyoming players collected donations for each mile of the ride, and organizers hope the total will reach $9,000.
“It was a chance for me to give back,” Williams said, “because I got so much out of playing for coach Bob Lewis at Wyoming.”
While at Wyoming High School, Williams cultivated his love of cycling. In those days, when Williams’ parents got angry with him, they’d ground him from using the car. The best way to get to see his girlfriend, Kitty, was to ride his bike the few miles to her house. At that time, it seemed like a long ride.
Decades later, and now married to Kitty, Williams rides about 400 miles a week in the summertime, even making a trip to North Carolina to visit his daughter at Elon University. Every month for the past 10 years, he’s ridden 100 miles round trip to Rabbit Hash, Ky. Some Januarys, when it’s 17 degrees outside, it’s not fun, he said. But he does it anyway, partly just because he always has.
“Motivation gets you going. Habit keeps you going,” Williams said.
Tim Marty was a sophomore on the 1977 Cowboys football team, and he and his brother, Jon, grew up playing for the Wyoming Youth Football League their father, Ted Marty Jr., created in the 1960s. The league fizzled out in the 1970s with the emergence of soccer, Tim Marty said. But when he and his brother started raising children, they began to discuss bringing it back.
Reaction from the community was strong, and last year marked the league’s first full season back. It drew 125 players, “and the kids had an absolute blast. That’s what it’s all about,” Marty said. This year, the league needed a fundraiser so it could provide equipment free of charge.
“We were shooting for $5,000-10,000, which would keep us financially sound,” Marty said. “We needed a fun idea to raise money, and they talked about us riding up to the Hall of Fame.”
Williams came to the rescue. He left from Wyoming at 4:30 a.m. last Saturday and arrived in Canton at about 7:30 p.m. He rode by himself, stopping only for water. The ride wasn’t much of a stretch from his normal weekend ride, he said. After all, he’s endured worse.
During the 2003 Paris-Brest-Paris race, Williams was on a bike for almost 56 straight hours. Though most riders have support crews, he had no assistance and didn’t speak French. Still, he finished in the top 100 of about 4,000 riders, he said, and earned a spot in the race’s hall of fame for American cyclists.
Now, Williams hopes his riding will bring a little fame - and funds - to Wyoming football.
For more information about the Wyoming Youth Football League, call Peter Guggenheim at 513-252-8635.