By John Boyle Herald Writer
RENTON — The physical transformation is the most obvious.
Mike Williams, a guy who at one point ballooned to 270 pounds and was out of football for two years, has been one of the pleasant surprises for the Seahawks this training camp. He is playing now at a chiseled 233-pounds, but it is much more than a new body that has Williams, a former first-round pick, on the cusp of an unlikely career resurrection in Seattle.
Before Williams, the 10th pick of the 2005 draft, could get right physically, he had to get his head on straight.
“I never doubted my talent, but I needed some time away to really clear my mind,” said Williams, who played for first-year Seahawks coach Pete Carroll at USC.
“I went through a lot in a short period of time, some things that I could control, some that I couldn’t, and I just used that time to really get my mind right. And once my mind was right, it was easy for my body to follow, for me to be disciplined and do the things that I needed to do.”
Make no mistake, Williams has been humbled. You don’t go from college star, to top-10 pick, to watching NFL football from your couch as a 25-year-old without changing a little bit. When Detroit made Williams a millionaire, he seemed destined for a long career in the NFL. At 6-foot-5, he was a matchup nightmare, but eventually his weight and other conflicts trumped talent and he was out of the league after two years in Detroit and one split between Oakland and Tennessee.
“It’s always humbling when you’re not playing ball,” he said. “That was such a crazy time for so many reasons. I had to deal with a lot. A lot of things were said about me that weren’t me … But I accepted all the stuff, whether it was true or not, and I put it all behind me. It doesn’t really matter what people from Detroit have to say or people from anywhere else have to say. It doesn’t matter anymore.”
No, what matters now is that an offseason reclamation project looks like a potential X-factor in the Seahawks offense. Not only does Williams look like a lock to make the team, he should be a major part of the Seahawks’ offense.
Take, for example, the short pass he turned into a 51-yard touchdown in last weekend’s preseason game. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was a tantalizing glimpse of what the Seahawks may have unearthed while rummaging through the free agency bargain bin.
And sure Williams still talks a little trash at practice — he has been humbled, not muted — but when he’s off the field, he is reflective, soft-spoken at times. And he sounds nothing like a brash receiver who thinks of himself a superstar.
“I’m not on this team yet, I haven’t made this team yet, I’m not a starter,” he said. “I’m going out here like everybody else trying to prove myself. … Nothing’s guaranteed around here, I know that, and it keeps me hungry.”
Of course, it’s easy to make jokes about Williams’ weight when he talks about being hungry, but he insists the weight issue is in the past and is a topic for media to worry about, not him.
Players who remember Williams from his last stint in the NFL have certainly noticed the difference.
“That’s a totally different guy,” cornerback Josh Wilson said. “We played him when he was with the Raiders, and he could have lined up at left tackle then and it wouldn’t have surprised me. He was a totally different guy.
“This guy came in here, and he’s toned up. We were getting ready to go home for the offseason, and he was like, ‘Man, this is the first time I can go to the beach and take my shirt off.’ He came here with a different outlook on things, he knew it was make it or break it time, and like coach (Pete) Carroll said, he’s out of retirement full speed.”
Mike Williams’ comeback is far from complete, but it’s off to a remarkable start. He knows he still has a ways to go to prove he wasn’t a first-round bust, but Williams is happy just to have a chance to rewrite his story.
“I control writing my own story,” he said. “I’ve worked hard, I’ve been given an opportunity here, and I plan on making the most of it.”
Wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh was back on the field after a three-day excused absence from training camp. Houshmandzadeh was tending to a family matter, though he didn’t go into details about why he was away.
“It was a little, minor situation, nothing big,” he said. “There’s nothing to get into. It was so minor, there’s really nothing to say about it.”
Camp Carroll concludes
Thursday was the team’s last of training camp session. Unlike when the team held camp in Cheney, the change from camp to practice is less obvious. It does, however, mean that players can leave hotel life behind and return home.
Carroll’s first training camp in Seattle featured just four two-a-days, and was generally regarded as less grueling than last season’s. The idea, Carroll said, is to have players fresh for the season. He also explained that productive offseason workouts take away some of the need for a grind of a training camp.
“That’s always been the approach,” he said. “The really fast, high energetic type of practices is to demand that they have to focus and be in on it. That they get a conditioning level done throughout the work of practice; we don’t stop from the moment that we get out there. We want to make sure that they can’t wander in their focus and all that, so that’s part of the energy that we generate around it. And then we rest well and take advantage of that. … Hopefully in the long haul of this it’s going to work out. Like I said a long time ago, it’s not a sprint, it’s an endurance race. So, we’re really trying to take that into consideration and take care of our guys.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblog