Williams was playing non-league football at Hednesford six years ago, having been rejected by West Brom at 16. And he worked as a waiter and at Drayton Manor theme park in the Midlands while playing part-time football.
Then Stockport snapped him up and a £350,000 move to Swansea followed five years later.
But since his international debut in Luxembourg, he has missed just one of the last 18 Wales matches.
In a difficult year for Wales, with continued injuries, retirements and an ever-changing side, Williams has been the model of reliability.
Now he has been rewarded with his country's top award and follows in the footsteps of previous winners Ryan Giggs, Mark Hughes, John Hartson, Neville Southall and Craig Bellamy.
Williams was ever-present for Swansea last season, and has attracted the attention of a string of Premier League sides.
He said: "Things have moved very quickly for me, and I am a little shocked. It is an honour to win such an award when you think exactly who has won it in the past."
It was a double triumph for Williams, who was also named Wales clubman of the year at the presentation evening for his contribution to Swansea's impressive campaign under Roberto Martinez, finishing just outside the play-offs.
Runaway winner of the young player of the year was Arsenal's 18-year-old midfielder Ramsey.
The Caerphilly-born youngster is already a fixture in Wales' senior side and has broken into the Arsenal set-up with Premier League and Champions League appearances since his £5million move from Cardiff 18 months ago.
Former Wales skipper Gary Sprake received a long-service award.
Wales also honoured former Cardiff goalkeeper Ken Jones, who was part of the squad that played in the 1958 World Cup finals in Sweden.
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