Simmons served as Williams' position coach that season and accompanied him to the award presentation, the first national postseason trophy ever won by a Colorado player. Williams asked Simmons to take care of the trophy for him and periodically over the past two decades he has reiterated that request, usually immediately following Simmons' attempts to return it.
The most recent time it happened, Simmons' wife suggested her husband needed to take the hint -- it was always Williams intention for his coach to have the trophy.
Williams learned Wednesday he had earned the ultimate individual honor in the college game when CU athletic director Mike Bohn and associate athletic director Dave Plati called Williams' afternoon sports talk radio show (104.3 FM) and informed him he had earned induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.
"Oh my goodness," Williams said.
The official announcement of 12 players and two coaches being inducted in this year's class comes this morning at 10 a.m. on ESPNEWS. Williams will be officially inducted on Dec. 7 at the National Football Foundation annual awards dinner in New York.
Williams is the fifth Hall of Fame inductee in CU history, joining Byron "Whizzer"White (1952), Joe Romig (1984), Dick Anderson (1993) and Bobby Anderson (2006).
"I`m speechless," Williams said. "I`m honored ... I`ve been nervous all day. I was supposed to be waiting for some kind of envelope, and I was sitting around the house waiting for it all day. I started to think it wasn`t going to come."
Williams had been on the list of nominees for the last three years. "I was beginning to think it wasn`t going to happen," he said.
Former Colorado coach Bill McCartney and former running back Eric Bieniemy were on the ballot for the first time this year and were not elected.
Bohn said the athletic department plans to honor Williams with a Hall of Fame weekend around the Sept. 18 home game against Hawaii, including a halftime ceremony. The department is also producing commemorative No. 94 jerseys and commemorative literature honoring Williams.
"Our hats are off to Alfred for his prominence on the football field beyond CU, but also what he continues to stand for as it relates to our football program, athletic department and the entire university," Bohn said.
At one point after being told of the honor, Williams teared up in the radio studio and briefly took a break from the show. He pulled out his phone and dialed a familiar number. Simmons was sitting in the Oakland, Calif., airport on another recruiting trip in his role as assistant head coach and special teams coordinator at Portland State when his phone rang.
He saw the name on his caller ID and smiled.
"I could not be happier for him and his family after all that Al has done during the course of his career," Simmons said. "I`ve been blessed to be around some great players and to have coached some great players, and he ranks up there with all of the best."
Williams came to Colorado in 1987 as a highly recruited defender from the Houston area in Texas. Together with fellow Houston products Kanavis McGhee and Arthur Walker, they were dubbed the H-Boys.
When asked whom he would select if he was given the chance to have a friend, former teammate or coach induct him in the hall, Williams identified McGhee as the most fitting choice. They have known each other since the sixth grade. Williams said he always tried to match McGhee`s level of play when they were together at CU.
"We used to crush people in college," Williams said reflecting during his show Wednesday. "There were times we didn`t play much beyond halftime."
Williams not only played like someone worthy of a nickname, his big personality almost demanded one.
He became a team leader quickly playing a significant role all four years in the program. He completed his career as the two-time Big Eight Conference Defensive Player of the Year, a two-time All-American, the Butkus Award winner as a senior and a member of two consecutive conference champions and a national champion.
Williams remains Colorado`s all-time leader in quarterback sacks with 35 for 242 yards in losses.
In talking about Williams last week, McCartney called him the most talented player he ever coached.
"He relished the big games and the big moments," McCartney said. "That`s when he had that swagger about him. He had an inner confidence. Whenever we would play in the big games on the road, Alfred was always stepping up and taking on the leadership role. He lived for those moments."
Former Colorado quarterback Charles Johnson said Williams was as much the heart and soul of the teams of the late 1980s and the national championship team as any other player. Johnson, McCartney and Simmons said Williams had a smile and fun-loving way about him that was infectious.
"Sometimes he would make it very difficult to chastise him because he`s so funny," Simmons said. "Here I am trying to coach him and all of sudden in a meeting someone tells a joke or something would come out and I would turn around and it would be him.
"But on the field, he took care of business and that was the bottom line."