Heard on the Hill

Congress' 'Athletics Director' Kicks Off College Football Caucus

Roger Williams brings together members passionate about college football

Texas Rep. Roger Williams, is hanging up his baseball jersey for the time being to talk about football. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Texas Republican Rep. Roger Williams has found another way to bring his love of sports to his work in Congress — this time teaming up with Alabama Democratic Rep. Terri A. Sewell to launch the College Football Caucus.

“Between the baseball caucus, football caucus and coach of the baseball team, guys are starting to call me the athletics director of Congress,” Williams said.

In his first year in the House in 2013, Williams helped start the Baseball Caucus and began coaching the Republican congressional baseball team. He also plays in the First Tee Congressional Challenge golf tournament.

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“College football, I think, is something everybody comes together on,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do, it creates camaraderie and that’s important right now in Congress.”

Williams played baseball at Texas Christian University, where he later had a coaching stint. He also played for a couple of years in the Atlanta Braves' minor league system.

When it comes to TCU’s football team, “I’m at every home game that I can make,” the congressman said. “We live and breathe the Horned Frogs. If they win, we’re great. If they don’t, we’re sad. They haven’t lost too many times so we’re spoiled.”

Williams stopped playing football after high school.

“I’d rather hit the baseball than be hit by anyone,” he said.

Sewell’s team — the University of Alabama — is the reigning college football national champion.

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Some of Congress’ former college football players have joined the caucus: Reps. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont. (Oregon), Gary Palmer, R-Ala., (Alabama), Jeff Duncan, R-S.C. (Clemson), Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah (Brigham Young), Mike Bishop, R-Mich. (Michigan) and Bruce Westerman, R-Ark. (Arkansas).

Williams, center right, seen here at the Congressional Challenge golf tournament in July 2015, says he's been called the athletics director of Congress. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Williams, center right, seen here at the Congressional Challenge golf tournament in July 2015, says he's been called the athletics director of Congress. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The caucus gives members a platform for talking smack.

“No longer are we talking about the economy, no longer are we talking about terrorism, no longer are we talking about social issues,” Williams said. “We’re talking about my team is going to beat your team and it brings smiles on people’s faces. And I think that kind of thing is needed.”

Williams said that if issues surrounding football come to Congress, the caucus could help provide a voice. Specialists have argued that young children should limit their contact sports activity to protect themselves and that football, especially on a collegiate level, should be made safer.

“College football is something kids start early on; there’s a lot of conversation now about issues and that sort of thing, and I thought it would be a good time to talk about it and have a footing if something ever comes to Congress’ attention,” he said.

“[The caucus provides] a platform to talk about how great the game is,” he added. “You think about how many kids get an education through college football that you wouldn’t get otherwise. It’s unbelievable. It’s a safe sport, it’s truly American.”

The caucus plans to meet quarterly. At its first meeting, former University of Oklahoma and Dallas Cowboys coach Barry Switzer and National Football Foundation President Steven Hatchell spoke.

“We will bring coaches and players in to talk about what college football has meant to them,” Williams said. “It plays a big part in educating America, making America competitive and just having fun. Who doesn’t want to root for their team on Saturdays?”

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