Mike Williams had his butt parked on the sofa when a call to action smacked him in the face.
Two years earlier, the former megastar from Plant High and Southern Cal had left the NFL. He wasn’t asked to leave the game; he simply came to the conclusion that he wasn’t motivated to continue playing the sport he’d always loved. So rather than compound the problem by playing when his heart wasn’t in the game, he left.
That changed prior to the 2010 season.
Williams’ desire to return to the NFL wasn’t fueled by money. He’d received sound financial planning advice from his support family that had taken him in as a teenager in Tampa. In fact, since leaving the game he had developed a second career in Burbank as a producer for his own record label; a pursuit that didn’t help his physical condition since he was in a studio chair on most days. Still, a nagging desire dogged him. Nobody needed to tell him what he already knew. He needed to fulfill his destiny. He had unfinished business on the football field.
There on the couch, William’s epiphany came during a TV show that named the “Trojans of the Decade.” Despite his greatness, Big Mike’s name never got mentioned among the those rattling past during the show about the college football dynasty under Pete Carroll. He’d become just another NFL bust – a moniker that tarnished his collegiate legacy. This was the last straw – game on. Williams decided he’d make it back to the NFL, the hard way. If he didn’t make it while giving it his all, he could live with himself. If he did make it? Well, it would make one hell of a story.
In a Rocky-like against-all-odds story, fraught with set-backs, disappointments, and winner-take-all victories, Williams tackled physical issues and shadows of the past to return in a big way with the Seahawks.
I hopped along for one hell of a ride ride, talking to him during weekly phone calls, all the while gathering stories and anecdotes for a book we wanted to write together. I would listen to him detail any progress or setbacks in training camp while trying to prove himself then during the season when I could watch the results take place on Sunday afternoons.
Along the way I learned not only what it takes to make it in the NFL – but also what it takes to make it BACK into the NFL. One of the lasting images he painted was of the injury situation in the league. With the Seahawks’ locker room and Williams serving as a microcosm, I learned that every player has something twisted, torn, sprained or broken. And they soldier on.
Williams proved he could be an elite NFL receiver. And at the end of that season, the Seahawks rewarded him with a new deal. Though he would get injured the following season, which essentially finished his career, Williams accomplished something no stat sheet could convey.
In essence, he became a man, accepting blame for his misgivings and developing an unparalleled work ethic that had not been present in the past. Unfortunately, the proposal for the book did not entice a publisher to buy, leaving an uplifting story dead on the vine. Nevertheless, I don’t regret the time I invested in the project. The road Williams traveled and what he overcame to build his character and work ethic brought inspiration. I was just the guy listening to an athlete talk about trying to make a comeback, but I can’t say enough how fond I grew of him and how proud I was of what he accomplished. Remember the old saying it’s not about getting knocked down, it’s about getting back up. Well, Big Mike sprang back up with both feet firmly planted on the ground.
Now comes a new chapter in Mike Williams’ life.
He wanted to give back to high school players, teach them the game and a few life lessons along the way. And he’ll have that opportunity as the new head coach at Locke Charter High in Los Angeles.
I have no doubt he will succeed at anything he puts his mind to, particularly leading young men. I can’t think of a better person to assume that role.
Nice going Big Mike!