Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Football's grip still strong on Williams

Todd Williams gazed around PAL's cafeteria Tuesday.

Row after row of fit high school football players sat at tables waiting for the former Southeast Seminole tackle to speak. Tell them the remarkable story how a 14-year-old kid like him made it from the streets to Florida State's 1999 national champs and then the NFL.

It being late July, Williams should probably have been in some NFL training camp.

He spent three years with the Tennessee Titans, who drafted him in 2003. Then he went to camp with Tampa Bay and Green Bay. After that came the Arena League, then the UFL last year.

Williams has been out of the NFL for awhile, but at 6-foot-5, 330-pounds he looked like he could strap on the pads then and there.

"I don't think it's over, but even if it is I've had a great run," he said.

Looking at the 200-plus kids, virtually all sporting designer workout apparel, Williams chuckled.

"These kids have all kinds of structured camps, more TV exposure, more mentoring programs ... a plethora of different things we didn't have. How ambitious are they?" he said.

Williams was hungry when he was their age.

His was a hunger that drove him on and off the field.

"I wanted it so bad, I was desperate. A lot of these kids aren't desperate enough to me," he said. "I could manhandle you on the field and not have to worry about going to jail for it. I'd been locked up so many times for undisciplined behavior. Football was my outlet."

Williams wondered whether it was the same for his audience.

"To some of these kids, it's just a game," he said. "It was life to me."

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