Williams to embark on NFL-USO Tour

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Defensive end Mario Williams will join three other Pro Bowlers on a weeklong visit to U.S. troops at military bases throughout Southwest Asia.

Texans defensive end Mario Williams is one of four NFL players who will continue a 40-year-old NFL-USO tradition when they embark on a weeklong visit to U.S. troops at military bases throughout Southwest Asia in the coming weeks.

Williams, San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, Cleveland Browns tackle Joe Thomas and Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten will travel to meet and greet the troops in the annual renewal of the NFL-USO program.

The military is close to Williams' heart – his brother-in-law, Marine Sgt. Nicholas Hodson, 22, was killed in a Humvee accident during Operation Iraqi Freedom on March 22, 2003.

That was less than two months after Williams had enrolled at North Carolina State. He offered to give up football to support his sister, Michelon, who was five months pregnant with her second son at the time.

Michelon refused to let Williams drop out of school, and he went on to become the No. 1 overall pick in the draft to the Texans in 2006. He then began to help provide for his sister and two nephews, Marius and Nicholas, with whom Williams remains close.

In the past four decades, NFL stars such as Terry Bradshaw, Larry Csonka, Franco Harris, Howie Long, Don Meredith, Lynn Swann and Johnny Unitas have visited troops on NFL-USO tours in such locations as Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, Japan, Korea, Kuwait and Somalia. The NFL teamed with the USO in 1966 and became the first sports organization to send a group of players to Vietnam and other parts of Asia, demonstrating the league's support for America's troops.

Last year, NFL players Jared Allen, Larry Fitzgerald, Will Witherspoon and Danny Clark, a former Texan, traveled overseas to Iraq and Kuwait. Coaches Tom Coughlin, Bill Cowher, Jeff Fisher, Jon Gruden and John Harbaugh met service members for several days in Iraq.

A Texans defensive captain and Pro Bowler in both of the last two seasons, Williams is involved in the Houston community through the Texans' TACT program. He and defensive tackle Amobi Okoye teamed up last season to host families from Casa de Esperanza, which is a safe place for children in crisis due to abuse. Williams and Okoye provided those families with 10 tickets per game.

Follow Nick Scurfield on Twitter at *twitter.com/NickScurfield or find him on the "I'm A Texan Club" at imatexan.com/profiles/Nick_Scurf/.*

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