Mentor Williams Not Ready for Final Chapter

Tramon Williams has had a remarkable career, from overlooked prep star and overlooked college star to playoff hero. In the process, he's become a role model for the younger cornerbacks. With an unwavering belief and faith, Williams says his best is yet to come.

"The Tramon Williams Story" might make a good movie.

At Assumption High School, Williams was a teammate of Brandon Jacobs. College scouts flocked to Napoleonville, La., to check out the bruising running back. Williams, despite being second-team all-state, was overlooked.

Completely overlooked.

Williams went to Louisiana Tech for its academics and with no pretense of playing football. One Saturday, he watched one of his school's games. Convinced he was as good as the Bulldogs' cornerbacks, he attended a tryout the following spring. His athletic ability astounded the coaching staff. He broke into the starting lineup as a junior, and he led the nation in passes defensed as a senior.

Just like in high school, Williams was overlooked again. He went undrafted in 2006 and signed with the Texans as a college free agent but failed to make the roster. He had a tryout with the Packers but wasn't signed, nor did he get a contract after about a half-dozen other tryouts. Finally, on Nov. 29, 2006, Williams was signed to the Packers' practice squad.

In 2007, Williams used a big hit on receiver Chris Francies during the Family Night Scrimmage to propel himself to an unlikely roster spot. From there, Williams was on his way. He's got 22 career interceptions, a big contract, a Pro Bowl selection and a Super Bowl ring.

As coach Mike McCarthy put it following one of the spring practices, Williams is a "poster child" for the Packers' draft-and-undrafted-and-develop philosophy of building a team. Everyone is given a chance, from first round to seventh round to undrafted free agent.

When Williams was a rookie and relative nobody, he bought into that message. Now as a veteran and mentor, Williams shares that message with the players desperately trying to become the next Tramon Williams.

"There's been a lot of guys who took the path I have," Williams told Packer Report after Saturday's training camp practice. "I tend to kind of (gravitate) toward those guys and let them know my story, let them know that they'll have a fair chance here.

"Different things, just to keep them motivated and not worry about the depth chart. The depth chart may not be in their favor but all it takes is make plays in one game and things can change. I hope those guys continue to come in and work hard because, at the end of the day, you're playing for all 32 teams. Those guys understand that."

Williams took advantage of that "fair chance." His first career interception, off of Detroit's Jon Kitna, came late in 2007. Taking advantage of Al Harris' injured spleen in 2008 and season-ending knee injury in 2009, Williams picked off nine passes. In 2010, Williams emerged on the national scene with six interceptions before a dominant playoff run. He clinched the wild-card win at Philadelphia with an end-zone interception. The next week, he picked off two passes at Atlanta, including a killer pick-six on the final play before halftime. His fourth-down pass breakup sealed the Super Bowl victory over Pittsburgh.

Williams' stardom was short-lived. He played through a serious shoulder injury in 2011, never once using it as an excuse while giving up more receiving yards than any corner in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. He bounced back with a solid season last year, though he had just two interceptions – none after Week 2. For his efforts, his teammates voted him the winner of the Ed Block Courage Award.

Williams is the only undrafted player in NFL history with four consecutive seasons of four-plus interceptions. But at age 30, Williams is closer to the end of his career than the start.

"Just pray, that's all you can do, man," he said. "I don't worry about things. God gave me a lot of talent. I believe in that talent. I believe in that talent. I get up believing every morning. When I step on the field, that's the way I approach it. Obviously, you're going to go through tough times and trials and tribulations. I believe. That's the only thing that motivates me."

Does Williams believe he can get back to his 2010 form? Can he again be the game's best big-play cornerback?

"I believe that I can have a better year," he said. "I know that was a special year. It was a special year, no doubt about it, but I believe I can have a better year. I believe that. I truly believe that. I'm not just saying that at all. I'm feeling great and I'm ready to go. I'm just ready to go."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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