At 7’1” tall and 400 pounds with size 21 shoes, Brave Williams (Seneca) says he wants to play college basketball or possibly football. Considering he’s a high school senior who already squats 1,000 pounds and easily bench-presses 200 pounds 20 times, his aspiration to make it to the NCAA and even the NBA, where his idols Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O’Neal played, aren’t unrealistic.
As a Lake Shore high school student in Angola, New York that played center on his high school football team, Brave Williams says he has offers from colleges for both basketball and football, but has yet to commit to any program.
“I’m a hard-working, dedicated person,” Brave Williams told ICMN. “If I put my mind to something, I’m going to keep trying to get to where I want to be and better. I’m a quick learner and I’ll do my best and more to get the job done while trying to get the best out of everyone around me.”
Brave Williams told ICMN his typical day includes nine periods worth of classes, including computer programming, economics and Haudenosaunee history. Williams says he works hard in the classroom to be a great example for the children who look up to him — literally and figuratively — on his reservation. “I try to keep up a standard of being a role model and try to lead by example,” he says.
Brave Williams’ stature has provided challenges his entire life. He was 5’3” in kindergarten, and since he is now 7’1” he has to duck at every door. In classes he has to sit at a table because the desks are too small.
When Williams tried out for the football team three years ago — after getting “used” to his body, he says — most of his equipment was specially ordered.
Up until recently, Williams enjoyed being a foot or more taller than his peers. “When I was younger I thought it was cool until I kept hitting my head on stuff,” he says. “Now I don’t really feel like I tower over them, especially when talking to my dad.”
Williams’ dad stands 6’4”. “I used to hope to be taller or as tall as him but it feels like I haven’t done that yet but physically I have. With my mom (5’9”) it’s the same. It doesn’t seem like I’m taller than them.”
Outside of school, he learns about his Seneca heritage and practices it. “The Seneca nation is the keeper of the western door, one of the six in the confederacy. I believe in the Creator and that Mother Earth is the beginning of life and where it ends and it sustains life for us.”
Lacrosse is also a big part of Williams’ life. He’s the team manager and secretary for the local Native Sons men’s senior team and plays pickup games for fun with his friends. “The main reason I stay involved is that it’s fun and the comradeship is strong between each other on our team.”
Due to his stature, he has enjoyed the attention from local and national media outlets. “It's hard to find time for the interviews but other than that it's pretty cool to have people recognize me and wish the best for me in the future and the feeling that people support me, even total strangers.”
Williams hopes the exposure will cause other college basketball teams looking for size and ability to find him.
Cary Rosenbaum (Colville Confederated Tribes) is a correspondent for Indian Country Media Network. Follow him on Twitter: @caryrosenbaum