Willie James Gault was born in Griffin, Georgia on September 5, 1960 to parents who were both textile mill workers. He lived a rather normal childhood and excelled at both track and football in high school. Even earning all-state honors for football in both his junior and senior seasons.
After high school Willie entered college at the University of Tennessee. All he did there was become an Olympic sprinter and All-American football player. But I'm getting a little ahead of myself. I think these feats deserve a little more individual attention.
When Gault got to college he did not make an immediate impact on the football field. Track and Field, however, was another subject entirely. He was part of a world record- setting 4 x 100 meter relay team and a 110 meter hurdler who was set to compete in the 1980 Olympic games in Moscow, Russia. The United States ended up boycotting those games in protest of the U.S.S.R.'s invasion of Afghanistan.
Willie set the 110 meter high hurdles record at both the 1981 and 1982 SEC championships, earning himself the Commissioner's Trophy in '82 for best overall score. It was also during these years that Gault started garnering his reputation as a wide receiver and return specialist on the UT football team.
As a senior in 1982 he was a pre-season All-American and he did not disappoint the voters. As part of a four man receiving corps who would all be drafted into the NFL, Gault led the team with 50 catches for 668 yards and 4 touchdowns. He also had 23 kickoff returns for 549 yards and a touchdown. These numbers, as well as his flashy style earned him All-American honors at the end of the season as well.
In fact, Willie's 4035 career total all purpose yards rank him second all-time at Tennessee. His 1854 yards in kick returns and 2513 yards in total returns are both school records.
In the 1983 NFL draft Gault was taken by the Bears with the 18th pick in the first round. He proceeded to make an immediate impact as the team's "speed merchant". His rookie year would in many respects be his best as a Bear. He had 40 catches for 836 yards and 8 receiving touchdowns. He also had 13 kickoff returns for 276 yards.
While '83 may have been his best statistically, his most prolific would be the 1985 season. In that championship year, he caught 33 passes for a team leading 704 yards and a touchdown. He excelled even more as a return man with 22 kickoff returns for 577 yards. A very respectable 26.2 yard average. He also added a touchdown in that category.
His biggest game of the 1985 season may just have come in Super Bowl XX. In that game Gault caught 4 passes for 129 yards, including a sixty yard over the shoulder catch that set up one of the Bears touchdowns. In fact, if one of his catches would have been for a score I believe that Willie Gault would have been the Super Bowl MVP instead of Richard Dent.
It was after the Super Bowl victory that he set his sights on another conquest. As an Olympic bobsledder. You read that right. Not only did Gault try out for the U.S. team, he of course made it onto the squad and competed in the Winter Olympic games in Calgary, Alberta in February of 1988.
Then prior to the 1988 football season, after what was a much publicized falling out with quarterback Jim McMahon, Gault was traded to the then Los Angeles Raiders, where he would finish his NFL career.
During his eleven year football career Willie developed a rather unique penchant for show business. In 1986 he danced with the Chicago City Ballet to benefit the Better Boys Foundation charity. Also in 1986 Gault spearheaded the making of the now famous ( infamous? )"Super Bowl shuffle" video, also to benefit charity.
After retiring Willie turned his attention to Hollywood, having caught the acting bug while playing for Los Angeles. To date he has had recurring roles in the tv shows "The West Wing", and "The Pretender", as well as being in several television movies and making one-time appearances in other shows. He was even featured with his daughter Shakari in the MTV hit "Parental Control".
With all that Willie Gault has done in his diversified life, I get winded just writing about it. I wonder. Will Dancing with the Stars be next?
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