Former Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams NFL player turned pastor Aeneas Williams was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2014 Saturday after being a finalist for the honor twice before.
A beaming Williams, who currently serves as pastor for The Spirit Church in St. Louis, Mo., humbly acknowledged the honor after his selection was announced in a ceremony at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
He was introduced as "a pro-bowler at cornerback and safety" who "notably turned turnovers into touchdowns scoring on nine of his 55 interceptions," according to a clip of the ceremony highlighted in a YouTube video.
He later explained in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch report that he began his journey to the honor following his older brother Achilles but ended discovering God's call for his own life.
"I have a degree in accounting because I was following Achilles," said Williams. "I don't even like numbers," he added as the audience roared with laughter.
"I used to always wonder growing up, how does God talk to people? I've always heard people say: 'Man, God talked to me,'" he continued.
"Well, about a week before the season started, my junior year in college (at Southern), I wasn't playing football. I was just following Achilles. My parents really stressed education.
"So it entered in my heart to walk-on the football team, a week before the season started. And I followed my heart, and that's when I figured out, when God talks to people you use your heart," he said.
"So when I stand here, and I think about what is my life's purpose – it's to help people not go to the grave empty," explained Williams. "I almost went to the grave never ever playing professional football."
On Sunday, Williams' congregation celebrated his win in his absence, according to a FOX 2 report. Shirley Vaughn-Smith, one of his congregants, said the entire church was really excited for Williams because after being a finalist for the honor twice before, getting it the third time around made it so much more special.
"Think the whole church was texting," said Vaughn-Smith of the moment her pastor was selected for the NFL Hall of Fame. "We were all texting. 'He got in! He got in!' We were so excited!" she said wearing a replica #35 St. Louis jersey with her pastor's name on the back.
When asked if not making the cut the first two years his pastor was a Hall of Fame finalist didn't worry his pastor, assistant pastor Simeon Williams said Williams never took it negatively.
"Aeneas has never been worried. He's never even been down when it happened because he knew eventually it would happen. But that's his character. His character has always been positive no matter the situation that happens," he said.