Former basketball standout uses life lessons to inspire others in new book

Layden Williams

by Shawn Nowlin

A 2006 graduate of Glenvar High School has just released his first book. “Beyond the Game: One Athlete’s journey to find their Identity after the horn,” isn’t just a typical sportsbook; it’s a relatable story of overcoming self-doubt, conquering fears and learning how to reach one’s full potential.

It was in 2013, while he was allocating time every day to write in his journal, that the vision for Donzell Williams’ book began. At the time, Williams had earned an athletic scholarship to Catawba College and graduated with a B.S. in Accounting in 2010.

Instead of pursuing basketball opportunities overseas, he decided to further his education and get his MBA from Radford University. While there he was a member of the RU MBA alumni development team and served as a Graduate Assistant for the economics department. Williams currently works in Charlotte, NC as a compliance consultant, someone who assists financial services in achieving conformance with government regulations.

In an effort to rebrand and distance himself from basketball, Donzell started going by his middle name “Layden” in 2012. Writing Beyond the Game was a two year process. To get a variety of perspectives about life after sports, Williams interviewed approximately 35 former athletes. They include former Baltimore Ravens player Dennis Haley, Indiana University track and field star Sydney Anderson and Wofford University basketball player Daniella Motley.

“My vision for writing the book started when I began noticing that a lot of my journal passages were about my days as a student-athlete. As I began to write more, I said to myself ‘you should make this into a story.” “So, I did some market research and noticed that there weren’t a lot of books for student-athletes and their transition once their careers ended.”

“My goal was to emphasize that sports can be a vehicle that can take you wherever you want to go, he added. However, my book isn’t just for athletes, it’s for anyone that wants to own their narrative. I’m a firm believer that one can wear many hats. I hate to be boxed into one category and refuse to be solely defined by the game of basketball. My story emphasizes going beyond the game.”

Layden Williams & Family

Williams worked with editor Helen Kimbrough and the Charlotte-based company AK Publishing. A book launching event took place at the 202 Social House on September 14. Moderated by former Northside High athlete Mack Lewis, attendees had the chance to ask questions about the book, hear Williams read excerpts from certain chapters and meet some of the people who contributed to the project such as Donzell’s brother, Dereck Williams, who created the book cover.

“My book draws on my personal experiences of being a student athlete and feeling blindsided once my career ended. A lot of my book was also inspired by Nipsey Hussle. The late great entrepreneur, community activist and musical genius shed a lot of insight on how to work hard, stay disciplined and build your legacy,” he said. “At the end of the day, when someone hears my name, I want them to realize that yes, I played basketball, but I am capable of much more than just putting a ball in a 10-foot goal.”

Beyond the Game can be purchased on both Itasca Books and Amazon.