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Mario Williams: All heart


Mario Williams has helped keep his family together despite his brother-in-law's tragic death.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This feature originally appeared in the Texans' Gameday magazine for the team's 'Salute to the Military' game on Nov. 18, 2007 against the New Orleans Saints.

Mario Williams is well known for being a physical specimen. And no wonder. The 6-7, 290-pound defensive end boasts a 40-inch vertical and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.66 seconds.

However, the most impressive part of Williams' genetic makeup has received little coverage: his heart.

Less than two months after he enrolled at North Carolina State, the defensive end learned that his brother-in-law, Marine Sgt. Nicholas Hodson, 22, was killed in a Humvee accident during Operation Iraqi Freedom on March 22, 2003.

Williams offered to give up football to support his sister, Michelon Hodson, who was pregnant with her second son.

"When Nick died, my sister had a baby on the way," Williams said. "She already had one, Marius, and then she was about five months pregnant with another boy. It was a pretty tough time. I was debating what I could do for her. I thought I should get out of school to help her, but she told me I had to stay in school."

{QUOTE}On campus, Williams felt worlds apart from his sister even though she lived only hours away at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C.

"It was kind of hard at first because my sister would call me crying because Marius would ask things like, 'Mom, why is my dad dead?'" Williams said. "It would be really emotional for her, but she still didn't want me to come home."

The dutiful younger brother remained at N.C. State where he set school records for career sacks with 25.5 and sacks in a season with 14.5. Hodson and her sons, Marius and Nicholas, were in the stands for almost every game.

"When I was at N.C. State, they used to stand and scream, 'Go Wolfpack!' and they would sing along to our anthem," Williams said. "They loved it."

Williams, however, still wanted to do more for his sister, and when the Texans drafted him as the No. 1 overall selection in 2006, Williams finally got his chance.

"I pretty much give the boys whatever they want," Williams said. "I don't spoil them. They don't just get their way, but I do like to get them stuff. I can't help it."

Williams hopes to move the family to Houston soon. His nephews wouldn't mind. They've learned a new cheer.

"On the bye week, I went home and took them to a game and they just kept saying, 'Go Texans!'" Williams said. "It doesn't matter where we are. They just cheer for the Texans."

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