Ex-Husky Reggie Williams gets second chance with Seahawks
After a humbling season away from football, and dealing with legal issues, former Washington wide receiver Reggie Williams has a three-day minicamp to show the Seahawks he deserves another chance.
Seattle Times staff columnist
RENTON — Rapidly the field was emptying. Most of the Seahawks' players, who were involved in the first minicamp of the Pete Carroll era, already were in the locker room, or the weight room, or the training room.
But on this windy, sunny Tuesday, Reggie Williams stayed out there with other invitees Kevin Robinson and Patrick Carter, catching passes from backup quarterback Mike Teel.
After a season away from the game, after a pleading guilty to a drug charge and getting sentenced to a year of probation, Williams was back on a football field and in no particular hurry to leave.
"I can go again," said Williams after his first practice in more than a year. "If they want to have another practice, I'm ready to go right now. I'm just so happy I got another opportunity to play again."
Just six years ago, Williams was a prodigy — a tall, physical wide receiver who was a cornerback's worst nightmare.
He is one of the most prolific receivers ever to play at Washington, too tall and too fast to be defended one-on-one.
In 2004, the Jacksonville Jaguars made him the highest Huskies draft choice since Steve Emtman in 1992, taking him with the ninth pick.
He couldn't miss.
But Williams was more destructive to himself than he was to NFL secondaries. His work habits were lax; his lifestyle too fast and loose. And when his rookie contract was done after the 2008 season, the Jaguars didn't offer him another deal.
"I don't know what went wrong," he said. "It just didn't work out. I learned from it. Became a better person. Became a better athlete, and now I have to move on."
Williams was arrested twice last year and teams ran away from him the way he used to run away from cornerbacks. He pleaded guilty in May 2009 to misdemeanor drug possession and was sentenced to a year of probation.
He was out of football that year.
"I'm not going to try to negotiate or ponder why it didn't happen for me last year or two years ago," he said. "The fact of the matter now is that I'm here with a great coach and a great new staff and I'm proud to be a Seahawk."
The Hawks are giving him a second chance, maybe even a last chance, to realize his potential. They invited him to this three-day, no-guarantees camp. This former first-round phenom has three days in his hometown to salvage his football career.
"This is the greatest gift ever," Williams said. "I'm just glad it's with Seattle. There's no better place for me. Just seeing my plane ticket and knowing I was going back to Seattle. Just walking into this facility, being back in Washington, it's a great feeling."
When he was in a car Tuesday, Williams asked the driver to crack open a window so he could smell the Northwest again.
"It smells like home," he said, "like when you walk into your mom's house."
In the middle of his first practice, Williams made a spectacular, tumbling, turn-back-the-clock catch of a long pass from new quarterback Charlie Whitehurst.
Inviting Williams to camp fits Carroll's philosophy. The Hawks are willing to look at anybody with talent. They want to create competition at every position.
The Hawks are turning over every stone, sorting through every recycle bin, looking for players. They're looking at stat sheets, not rap sheets. This no longer is Team Citizenship. If you can prove you can play, they'll pay.
And, despite his off-the-field problems, Williams has shown glimpses of that raw potential during his five-year career. He caught 10 touchdown passes in 2007 and had 38 total catches for 629 yards. In 2006, he caught 52 balls.
He is 6 feet 4, 230 pounds, in excellent shape. And he's only 26. For the Hawks, Williams is risk-free. For Williams, the Hawks could be Paradise Found.
He says he is more responsible now. He is engaged. He has a 4-month-old son, Rush.
"Last year I was humbled and I've allowed myself to see things differently," Williams said. "I didn't watch a lot of football. It was too painful, too hard. Now I'm just happy to be back. Football still means a lot to me. I can't say football's everything because I have a son and a fiancée now. But it's right after God and family."
Fans can look at this invitation two ways. It can be a sign of just how desperate for talent the Seahawks are. Or it can be a sign of how creative and open to new ideas this new administration is.
Williams understands there will be skeptics. People will think he can't change. People will be waiting for his next fall.
"I'll tell them to keep watching," he said. "If you're watching me, then just keep watching and you'll see."
Reggie Williams is back on the football field. Back home. The sun on his face, the ball in his hands. At this point in his career, that is all he can ask.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or email@example.com
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
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