WATCH: Merritt Island Mustang Waldo Williams Among Brevard County’s Greatest All-Around Athletes
By Space Coast Daily // August 11, 2023
2019 SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAMER
SPACE COAST DAILY TV: Wallace “Waldo” Williams was without question one of the best all-around athletes to ever grace a Brevard County sports field. He was an integral part of what many consider the best high school football team to ever step on a Brevard County gridiron, the 1972 Merritt Island Mustangs undefeated state championship team.
‘We Were Special With Waldo’
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA (Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame) – Wallace “Waldo” Williams was without question one of the best all-around athletes to ever grace a Brevard County sports field.
During a time when civil rights legislation and Supreme Court rulings desegregated schools and other public facilities, Williams, with the encouragement of his father, Waldo Williams Sr., would become the first black athlete to participate in several sporting leagues in Brevard County.
Williams learned to be a great athlete by listening to his father and tagging along with the elder Williams to any and all sporting events at segregated Monroe High School in Cocoa where legends such as 2014 Space Coast Sports Hall of Famer Dick Blake coached.
William’s outstanding athletic ability was obvious at a young age.
“Waldo was great at whatever he did,” says childhood friend and frequent teammate of Williams, Tommy Cook.
“We were special with Waldo. We were special in elementary school winning championships and ribbons. We were special in junior high winning at basketball and a little league state championship as 13-year old All-Stars, and then go to high school and win a state title in football.”
Williams’ athletic ability came to the forefront in a national competition at the age of 10.
One Sunday morning Williams’ father happened to see an ad in the paper asking for kids to come and try out for the local Punt, Pass and Kick competition.
Waldo not only tried out for the competition, but he won, and for the next several years, would travel the country representing Brevard County and Florida in the competition.
Williams broke and tied records and even competed on national television in the finals. He didn’t win after shanking a punt, but he did get an opportunity to visit the White House and meet sports legends like Vince Lombardi and Richard Petty.
“Williams was a great individual player, but he was a great teammate as well,” said Cook.
He was an integral part of what many consider the best high school football team to ever step on a Brevard County gridiron, the 1972 Merritt Island Mustangs undefeated state championship team.
With fellow 2019 Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame inductee Jimmy Black at quarterback and 2012 Hall inductee Leon Bright, the 1972 Mustang juggernaut scored 426 points, outscoring opponents by an average of 42 to 6.
Williams was a bruising, powerful runner who cleared out defenses and made it impossible for opposing coaches to game-plan for just one running back.
Whenever he saw defenses trying to wrench a knee or get in a cheap shot on Bright on the bottom of a pile, Williams would make them pay the next time he got the ball.
While Williams is best known for his play on the gridiron, he may have been a better baseball player. He was the first black baseball player in Merritt Island and Babe Ruth League baseball.
Not only was Williams an All-State first-team selection in football but he earned the same designation as a catcher in baseball at Merritt Island High.
Williams was eventually selected 70th overall in the third round of the 1972 Major League Baseball draft by the Cincinnati Reds.
After being named the consensus No. 1 player in the state of Florida, Williams signed to play for the Reds but didn’t like the way his career was headed and a few years later, he decided he wanted to go to college and play football.
However, the NCAA said he wasn’t eligible, that he was now a professional. Williams hired an attorney and fought the ruling.
Williams contested he was only a professional in baseball, not in football. He eventually won the ruling setting the precedent that has since allowed athletes like John Elway to compete professionally in one sport and as an amateur in another.
Williams would attend Florida State where he would join fellow Merritt Island teammates Jimmy Black and his childhood friend, Leon Bright.
He is married to former Melbourne High standout athlete Jackie Thorpe-Williams and his pride and joy are his daughters Kendria and Kasmin, two sons Travis and Trae and four grandchildren.
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