Doug Williams attended Grambling State University where he played under head coach Eddie Robinson. In his first two seasons, he played on the same team as future NFL receiver Sammy White. Williams guided the Tigers to a 36–7 (.837 winning percentage) record as a four-year starter, and led the Tigers to three Southwestern Athletic Conference Championships. Williams was named Black College Player of the Year twice.
In 1977, Williams led the NCAA in several categories, including total yards from scrimmage (3,249), passing yards (3,286), touchdown passes (38), and yards per play (8.6). Williams finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting, behind Earl Campbell, Terry Miller, and Ken MacAfee. Williams graduated from Grambling with a bachelor’s degree in education, and he began work on his master’s degree before the 1978 NFL Draft.
In July 2019, Grambling State honored Williams by naming a street in his honor on the college’s campus.