(photo by Brian Murphy)
We’re convinced it’s virtually impossible to interact with “Big” Mike Williams and not become a fan of the guy.
By now everyone in town knows Williams’ story – after nearly eating himself out of football, he dropped more than 100 lbs. in pursuit of a second chance. Once he landed on the Washington Redskins a year ago, he became one of the few constants on a patchwork offensive line. Even as times got tough during a 4-12 season, Williams was always willing to stand up and be held accountable for the team’s shortcomings.
A year later, he no longer has to worry about changing his body or any other off-the-field distractions. These days, he’s able to simply focus his attention on playing football and helping his team win games. Williams is currently slated to be the team’s starting right guard and he couldn’t be happier.
But what stands out most about Williams is that he’s the ultimate team player. He knows he made mistakes in the past and he’s willing to do anything the coaches ask of him to keep his roster spot. Unlike some players, he’s not content looking out for only himself. Instead of putting in his time and heading home, Williams goes out of his way to work with rookies (and even the occasional blogger) to share his knowledge.
We had the chance to check in with Williams during minicamp and, as usual, were thoroughly impressed with the six-foot-seven, 337 lb. lineman.
How the hell are you these days?
“I’m feeling great,” Williams said.
A year ago, everyone was focused on your weight loss and seeing if you’d even be able to earn a place on the team. How nice is it to just show up and play football this year and not have to worry about all that other stuff?
“That stuff comes with the territory,” he said. “I’m not worried about any of that. I’m out here having fun. I don’t have to worry about my weight or anything like that, so I’m genuinely having a great time. I’m learning the new plays, focusing on minicamp and everything like that.”
The only downer is we no longer get to hear any stories of you crashing on Derrick Dockery’s couch anymore.
(Laughs.) “That was only for a short time because we didn’t know we were going to be up here that long,” Williams said. “But that’s what a good friend does. They come through for you.”
At this point you’ve basically played every position on that offensive line …
(Laughs.) “Not every position,” he said.
Okay, maybe not center. But I think we can all agree you’ve been moved around a few times since you came to town. Where do you feel most comfortable?
“Right now I’m at right guard and I feel real comfortable,” Williams said. “I think I’m a good fit there. Last year, I was here, here and here, so it was kind of hard to adjust. Now, I’ve really got an opportunity to focus on guard alone and not worry about other positions. It allows me to really focus on the skills that are needed at guard, like footwork, my hands and how defenses are lined up.”
We openly admit that most fans have no clue what subtle differences go into playing guard as opposed to tackle or vice versa. Can you dumb it down so we can get an idea of some of the differences?
“Okay, here’s the deal,” he said. “At tackle, it’s really like being on an island. You’re out there by yourself one-on-one with an opponent and you have to adjust to the defensive lineman because he’s got a lot more room to work with. Being at guard, it’s like being in a phone booth. There’s only so many places he can go, but contact is instant. At tackle you can kick step or pass set while you wait for the guy to get to you because he’s a little further away from you.”
You’re able to focus on right guard and there are only so many places a defender can go when he lines up against you. That sounds like it creates a favorable matchup for you. What say you?
“I guess so,” Williams said. “I’m just keeping my head down and continuing to work at being the best player I can be.”
Obviously the offensive line drew a lot of heat last season. What’s different this time around?
“There’s a lot of things that are different, but mostly it’s a new attitude,” he said. “Everything has changed, and not just with the offensive line. The entire team is different. There’s a different level of dedication and focus and Coach Shanahan has come in and done a great job bringing guys in and saying, ‘Status quo is not acceptable’ and everyone is buying in.
“Look at the attendance we’ve had this offseason,” he continued. “No one wants a repeat of what happened last season. That will only happen if we’re all doing the little things right. That’s one of the biggest things Shanahan preaches – do the little things right and be accountable. If we all do that, we have the tools in place to be a great team. Now it’s on us to go out there and produce.”
As a former first-rounder, what can you tell us about the newest addition to the offensive line, Trent Williams?
“Trent’s got tremendous talent,” Williams said. “I talked to him the other day and told him to get used to the speed of the game because it’s going to be different than in college. Everybody he’s going to line up against has worked hard to get out there on that field. The biggest difference between college and the NFL is that you can dominate a practice and never get beat. But here, you have to work at it every single down.
“You’ve got to hone your skills,” he continued. “Those guys are out there so they can feed their families. This is their job. Don’t be scared to get beat. It’s going to happen. You’ve just got to be able to bounce back and correct your mistakes. That’s how you make it in the pros.”
Do you feel any sort of obligation to look after him, especially since you’ve been there before?
“Yeah, for sure,” Williams said. “He’s got a lot of stuff that’s going to be piled up on him. Like I said, his first day here, he was thrown into the mix. He was thrown out there with the ‘ones,’ so a lot was required of him. He’s got to know how to handle everything, but we’re going to gather around him. Guys like me, Dock, Casey [Rabach] and everyone else are going to be there for him to help him along the way. That’s our obligation as an offensive line, to be there as a unit.”