At a young age, University of Colorado senior cheerleader and Chicago native Ozell Williams turned to tumbling to stay out of trouble. Now, his skills have caught the eyes of the Buffs community and beyond.
“I started tumbling since I was three, and basically just flipped off my mom’s couch,” Williams said. “The funny thing is, I was watching Power Rangers, so those were like my idols when I started growing up.”
His mother recognized his talent right away and tried to find a place that would be able to help him grow and keep him energetic. But as a single mother of two, she couldn’t afford it.
That opportunity came later, and in an unusual way.
When Williams was little, he got into what he called a “small altercation” that ended with him accidentally throwing a rock at a window and shattering it. When the owner of the house came to confront him about it, he accepted the responsibility of his actions.
“My payment was me being on her soccer team, and also me joining her little gymnastics team that she had,” he said.
Through this “punishment,” he learned the basics of tumbling and spent the next few years with his new coach until she passed away when he was ten years old.
“I want to say it was kind of like a prophecy in tumbling that she left me with before she passed away, which is why my tumbling is shining the way it is,” he said. “She’s in heaven watching down on me and flying with me all the time.”
He continued to tumble and perform in various events until one special event changed his life for the better.
After one of his competitions with the Worldwide Spirit Association, Samantha Frydrychowski asked Williams for an autograph and a picture, and her family ended up inviting him to dinner. Later on, they adopted him into their family and opened the door to endless opportunities for him.
From then on, the Frydrychowskis helped his tumbling career take off. Williams was accepted into the University of Louisville in 2008, where he won three rings and a jacket his freshman year of college.
Since then, he has won Worlds, College Nationals, Cheer Sport and has been a part of the Team USA cheer team since 2009. Six months ago, he became a YouTube sensation after publishing a video of himself tumbling around campus, which now has nearly 2,100,000 page views.
He joined the CU family in spring of 2010 after transferring from Louisville and has made quite the impression. In 2011, Williams added to his accomplishments by founding the Mile High Tumblers organization.
“I started Mile High Tumblers because I started to get exposure,” he said “I’m only one itty-bitty me. I need more tumblers around me. I started to create this because I wanted to give back to the community, and I want to give kids that Boys and Girls Club aspect that was in the 90s.”
In the past two years Williams and his organization have been making a splash, appearing at Broncos and Nuggets games, among other events.
But he didn’t stop there. At the last home football game of the 2013 season, Williams achieved an incredible feat with his famous backflips.
“I just broke the world record at the CU vs. USC game,” he said. “The record was 46 but I beat it and made 57, so I got big news, big press on that. It was awesome.”
He added that he believed the twenty-degree weather at the game held him back.
“I’ll be honest, once I passed 46 I was like, ‘yes, I got 46. Now do I keep going or do I slow down?'” he said. “It was cold. It definitely was not what I was expecting for weather when it was time I had to go for it. Now, if it was warm, I would have done more.”
When the weather warms up, Williams said that he plans to break his own record to solidify his spot in the Guiness Book of World Records.
He hopes that the exposure he has received will help him he tries to give back to the community.
“Where I come into play is that I’ve always grown up a small guy, but have always had that dream of being where I can make some big decisions and make sacrifices for the people that I love and the people that I’m trying to help and give back what I’ve been given,” he said.
“I think Mars is the limit for me instead of the sky, because I reach up, above and beyond all that.”
Contact CU Independent staff writer Alissa Noe at Alissa.firstname.lastname@example.org.