Big Mike Can Conquer Anything

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.

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Mike Williams (No. 17) escorting Marshawn Lynch

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!

bchastain19@gmail.com

Some Louisville Slugger Love

Hillerich & Bradsby sold Louisville Slugger to Wilson Sporting Goods this week.

The iconic bat maker has produced over 100 million bats since John A. Hillerich first brought the original stick to life in his father’s woodworking shop in 1884.   Eighty-percent of the hitters in the Hall of Fame used Louisville Sluggers during their playing careers.

Louisville-slugger-logoH&B will continue to manufacture all Louisville Slugger-branded wood bats, so, I don’t suppose things will change too much.  Still the news stirred some long ago memories.

Nobody used anything other than a Louisville Slugger when I was growing up; aluminum bats had not yet come onto the scene.  Don’t I sound like the guy who used a slide ruler instead of a calculator?

We were all intimately familiar with the various lengths, shapes and weights of the different Louisville Sluggers, each one bearing a certain player’s signature on the barrel.  A Jackie Robinson model had a thick handle as did the one signed by Nellie Fox, though not as thick.  Manny Sanguillen’s had a smooth knob.  And my all-time favorite, Willie McCovey’s “Mac 44,” had a huge barrel.

Boy did I rake with a Louisville Slugger in hand.  The times I did not connect don’t really register.  Imagine that.

Roman Reigns Rules

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Roman Reigns

Saw former Georgia Tech defensive lineman Joe Anoaʻi on ESPN Tuesday.  You might know him better by his professional wrestling name, Roman Reigns.  During the segment, highlights were shown of him from Tech’s 23-14 win over Auburn in 2005.  I especially enjoyed those since I attended that game at Auburn.  Afterward, the silence in the SEC cathedral roared.

Roman Reigns will square off with Brock Lesner on Sunday for some kind of title that would make him the king of the wrestling world.  Hopefully he wins, because it’s all real.  Anyway, the funniest part of the segment came when he watched a film of Snoop Dog posing in the ring with Hulk Hogan.  Asked what he thought of Snoop Dog’s build, Roman Reigns replied: “Looks like he does a lot of cardio.”

And…

I’m sure you are just as devastated as me to learn that Zayn Malik is no longer a member of One Direction.  Man, I was hoping it was just a rumor! Such is the nature of boy bandsTrouble Brewing … I’m amused that the Oprah Winfrey Network has ordered “Evelyn.”  The show will feature Evelyn Lozada, the former wife of Chad Ochocinco and the current fiance of former Ray, Carl Crawford.  The couple just had a son, Carl Leo Jr.  This one will be worth watching if C.C. is invested in the show.  He’s remains an all-time favorite and one of the true characters I’ve been around. … If you want to ready a witty novel and you also love microbrews, pick up Paul Abercrombie’s Trouble Brewing.  I’m still laughing.

bchastain19@gmail.com