Born December 31, 1965 in Los Angeles, Ca 5-11/1.79m 154/68kg Washington HS, Los Angeles, Ca '82 Los Angeles CC '85 Prairie View '87 PRs (outdoor): 100 10.02 '96 200 19.87 '96 300 32.47 '90 PRs (indoor): 50 5.78 '92 60 6.67 '95 200 20.40 '96 (AR) Major Meets: 1986 6h)NCAA 200 1989 8s)USA 100 7)USA 200 1990 7)USA 100 6)USA 200 1991 8)USA 100 5s)USA 200 3)Pan-Am Games 100 5)GP Final 200 1992 6s)Olympic Trials 100 8)Olympic Trials 200 1993 5h)USA 100 6s)USA 200 5)GP Final 200 1994 8s)USA 100 6)USA 200 1995 8)USA 100 3)USA 200 3)World Champs 200 5)GP Final 200 1996 2)USA Indoor 200 4)Olympic Trials 100 2)Olympic Trials 200 5)Olympic Games 200 Major Relays: 1991 dq)Pan-Am Games 4 x 100  1992 1)World Cup 4 x 100 
For anyone who has followed the career of journeyman sprinter Jeff Williams, two facts about 1996 are pretty stunning. First, that he would run a 19.87 for 200m. That mark, at Fresno, upset the form charts and unsettled his competitors. Second, even if Williams had run that incredible time at the Olympic Games, it wouldn't have gotten him a medal. Such is life.
In any case, last season brought Williams to the highest echelon of sprinting, and the veteran probably has more in him.
A fixture at USA Championship meets since 1989, he made a 100 or a 200 final every year but one since then. He was never a real contender until 1995, when he came on strong, taking third in the nationals 200 in 20.20 behind Michael Johnson and Kevin Little.
His career finally seemed to take off. "I think persistence plays a little part in it," he says. "Luck is remnant of desire. Just hanging in there. It wasn't that I couldn't make the final. It was that I haven't been able to punch through. It's not that I couldn't run world-class times, because I've shown that time and time again."
A strong European campaign followed, and at Gothenburg Williams ran well in the rounds of the 200. In the final, saying he was "pulled along by Michael's jetstream," he blasted off the turn and grabbed the bronze medal (and a PR 20.18) with his impressive finish.
Last season stunned as well. Williams blistered his 19.87 in a race he hadn't been planning on running. He went to Fresno to run a quick 100, but his shoe slipped off in the final and he had to settle for third. He decided to line up for the furlong. "I wanted to see where we were at," he says.
He came to the Trials with another lifetime best under his belt, a 10.14 for the dash. When he declared for the 100, many wondered why he would take a chance on reducing his 200 chances for an event where he had no chance. But Williams quickly showed he could do the short sprint as well. He PR'd in his first round, leading in 10.02. He followed up with marks of 10.07, 10.05 and 10.06, finishing a close fourth in the final. "I had a mental breakdown and got called for a false start," he said later. "I blew it, so I had to sit in the blocks and watch."
In the 200, he ran a solid 20.03 for second, easing up prior to the finish line, perhaps in shock at Michael Johnson's 19.66 World record.
At the Olympic Games, Williams only had the 200 to worry about because the coaches passed him over for the 4x100 relay team. Perhaps remembering the burn in his legs from hammering every round at the Trials, he took a more conservative approach to the rounds in the Games. In the final, he ran a solid 20.17. That gave him fifth place, well out of the medals.
To many, Williams' accomplishments are a remarkable achievement for a sprinter who has long toiled in obscurity without the help of sponsors. Williams grew up in Los Angeles -- still his home today -- and loved football first. He played at Prairie View A&M, where as a sophomore, he walked into the track office one day. "The coach said, 'We understand that you play football, that you're one of the fastest out there. Will you run track?' That's all there was to it."
As college careers go, it didn't point to any future stardom for Williams. He ran 10.3 and 20.85w for Prairie View, making it as far as the heats of the NCAA 200. He says he had some pro football offers, but in 1988 decided to forsake the gridiron. Returning from the store one day on his motorcycle, a car made a left turn in front of him. Williams crashed. "After I came back from that I made the decision I would see where track would take me because I didn't want to risk anything."
With his degree in social sciences, Williams returned to the West Coast and started training under the guidance of Olympic medalist Barbara Edmonson. The sport is something he sees himself staying with for a good while longer. "It's something to do," he explains. "It is a business; we are professional athletes. It pays the bills. It's something I enjoy doing. I haven't reached my full potential yet, so I'm still looking to see just how far, just how fast I can go. You want to get out there and do it. Why not?"
When Williams is not racing or training, he can be found, well. . . racing. "Racing cars was something I had been doing before I started running. I had been building engines and racing them. We have a quarter-mile track here at Terminal Island in L.A.You go out there on a weekend, pay $10 to get in, and you can race as many times as you can get back to the starting line."
Foot racing, though, is where his heart is. And he says it can take him farther. The 'why?' is simple: "Training and desire," he says.