April 23, 2021

William James, from sleeping in public bathrooms to being drafted by the Alouettes

“I didn’t want to alert my parents to worry them”

Swedish defensive back William James has had a rather unusual journey. Selected by the Alouettes in the fourth round (31st overall) of the CFL’s Global Draft a few days ago, he has moved around and traveled all over the place in the recent years. And finally, his hard work and sacrifices are paying off

I am so happy to be drafted by the Alouettes. This organization has a great history, and I am happy to have the chance to discover Montreal. Until then, I’m training hard and putting all my energy to prepare for training camp

The beginning of a great adventure

I started playing football at the age of 14. I started playing sports very young and I realized I loved football and contact sports,” said James on the phone. “When it was time to enroll in university, I sent probably 300 applications. I wanted to play football at the next level so bad. The Fighting Hawks made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, and I spent four years there in North Dakota.”

In two seasons in the NCAA, he played 23 games, collected 94 tackles, a sack, forced three fumbles and knocked down four passes. The Swede played as a linebacker and on special teams.

Difficult times

However, things were not always rosy on American soil… Upon his arrival, the young prodigy lived with three other teammates in a small apartment with three bedrooms. When the landlord realized that too many people were living in the apartment, William was evicted from the residence. His name was not on the lease and it was imperative to respect the limits imposed by the owner for fire prevention purposes. It must also be said that the guys all together were not the quietest tenants in the city, which did not help his cause….

During that year I slept everywhere, I spent nights in heated building elevators, in public toilets and in tunnels outside that kept me warm. I didn’t have any money and I didn’t want to tell my friends. When some of them found out, they took me in. The guys ended up all knowing about my situation and I would move from one guy’s place to another every week. I owe it to Romon Bridges, who, without saying it openly, he is the one who put the bug in my teammates’ ears and they all agreed to help me.”

During these difficult times, William would arrive at his university’s gymnasium at the opening at 6 in the morning to take a shower and wash up. No one knew that he was just washing up there. Around 7 a.m., he would wait for his friends who had an unlimited meal card to eat. “When I had no choice, I would buy canned tuna, but most of the time I would take my friends’ meal plans. When I think about it, it was a pretty tough year. I didn’t want to alert my parents because I knew they’d be worried. Thankfully, things went back to normal the following year.”

Giving back

As he waits for the season to start, William James works with his mother who is a teacher at a school for children with special needs in Sweden. He learns to communicate with them and helps young people aged seven to thirteen develop self-confidence. He sees autistic children with personality disorders and loves to put a smile on their face. “You realize very quickly that they appreciate your presence. Seeing them being happy makes my day in all honesty. These young people are heroes to me. They stop at nothing and enjoy life.”

Before going to university (2015-2018), the linebacker spent time in Germany where he played three seasons with the Dresden Monarchs.

A love for horses

He then spent a year in Australia in 2019 playing rugby, while football for his university. It was North of the city of Melbourne that he found a job with the horses. “Quickly, I was taught how to take care of these beautiful animals. I washed them, brushed them, cleaned their environment and fell in love with them. After a short time, they recognized me and appreciated my presence.” The 29-year-old is fascinated about how these animals react differently to others. “Some asked for affection while others were totally indifferent,” he laughs.