CLEVELAND — With a deep, refined voice, one that had been sadly misplaced, Ted Williams simply asked for help to get him off the streets.
He’s been heard.
Left homeless after his life and career were ruined by drugs and alcohol, Williams has been offered a job by the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers and is being pursued by NFL Films for possible work after he and his compelling tale became an online curiosity.
“This has been totally, totally amazing,” Williams said in a phone interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, his voice choking with emotion. “I’m just so thankful. God has blessed me so deeply. I’m getting a second chance. Amazing.”
Williams was contacted Wednesday by the Cavaliers, who have offered him a position that could include announcing work at Quicken Loans Arena, the team’s downtown arena. Williams said the team has offered him a two-year contract and said they would pay his mortgage.
But, wait. It gets better.
Williams said the Cavaliers’ offer is just one of many flooding in over the past two days.
“I can’t believe what’s going on,” said Williams, a father of nine, adding he feels like Susan Boyle, the English singing sensation who became an overnight star. “God gave me a million-dollar voice and I just hope I can do right by him.”
Williams said he is flying to New York to see his 90-year-old mother, who lives in Brooklyn and has stood by him during his battles with addiction.
“She has always been my best friend,” he said, crying. “When I was a kid, she would take me down to Radio City Music Hall and on the subway. I’m just glad that she is still around. I prayed that she would live long enough that I could make her proud and see could her son do something other than stand along the side of the road with a sign asking for money.”
Williams’ life began spiraling downward in 1996 when he began drinking alcohol “pretty bad.” He used marijuana and cocaine and lost interest in his radio career. Williams said his last job was with a station in Columbus. He eventually wound up on the streets, despite the best efforts of his children, seven daughters and two sons who all live in the Columbus area.
“They have mixed emotions about what is going on,” Williams said. “During my detox stages, I had a tendency to eat up everybody’s food. I’m a grandfather, too, and I was eating what should have gone to their kids.”
Williams said he celebrated two years of sobriety “around Thanksgiving. I just hope everyone will pray for me.”
Williams was initially spotted by The Columbus Dispatch standing near an exit ramp off Interstate 71. In a video interview that quickly became wildly popular, Williams — holding a cardboard sign that asked motorists for help and says, “I’m an ex-radio announcer who has fallen on hard times” — explained in his smooth, bottomless voice that he was drawn to radio at the age of 14.
When he first heard Williams’ beautiful, bottomless voice, Kevin McLoughlin of NFL Films, which has chronicled pro football for nearly 50 years, knew he had to contact the unknown man.
“It’s that voice,” said McLoughlin, director of post-production films for the NFL told The Associated Press. “When he was telling his story, I said, ’That’s what we do. This guy can tell a story.’ Somehow, some way, I need to get a demo with him. He could be that diamond in the rough.”
McLoughlin has not been able to contact Williams, but he intends to track him down.
“The man deserves a second chance,” he said.
Apparently, he has received a few of them.
Williams’ story should be an inspiration for other homeless people, said Bob Ater, executive director of the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless.
“One of the problems with a lot of homeless people is that they have some rich talent, but don’t have the confidence to exploit that talent,” Ater said, adding he was unfamiliar with Williams before the video hit. “He’s fabulous. The Cavaliers could use a boost of some kind.”
They sure can. The Cavaliers, after all, are 8-26 and in last place in the Central Division. They play Toronto tonight in Cleveland.