Returning To Service


For many of the Packers, mini-camp was an interruption from offseason vacation, but for wide receiver Travis Williams, it was the other way around.

To get back to Packers camp for the first time since the 2000 season, Williams had to take leave from the Navy, where he is the Electronic Warfare Officer on the U.S.S. Boxer.

Williams played his college ball in Annapolis, Md., but has spent the better part of the last two years on an aircraft carrier, recently dropping anchor in the Persian Gulf, Red Sea and Arabian Sea.

He called his time in the Navy a "fantastic experience," but that didn't mean his outlook on mini-camp wasn't a little different from the norm. Williams pointed out as much standing in line for receivers drills at Saturday morning practice.

"One of the guys was saying, 'I'm sore, I'm tired, thank god we only have one more day left,'" Williams remembered with a laugh. "I said, 'I know we only have one more day left. I want another two or three weeks, I have to go back to work with the Navy after this.'"

After a period of constant 24-hour watches, Williams said his daily schedule in the Navy has improved in recent weeks, his day starting around 7:00 a.m. and running until about 6:00 p.m. Of course, that's just his Navy job.

"To work until 6:00 every night and then have to workout after that makes it a pretty full and exhausting day," Williams said. "I'd love to be able to focus on just one thing. You don't get a lot of opportunities to catch footballs on an aircraft carrier."

He does get a few though, recruiting buddies to toss him the pigskin every now and then, but not nearly enough to match all that he could be doing in any of the Packers' offseason opportunity sessions. Going into mini-camp, he wondered if he'd even be able to compete.

"I hadn't been back here in two years and so being away from the game for so long, I thought I'd come back and feel a total step behind everyone," Williams said. "But I think I came in here and did pretty well. I was rusty obviously, but I caught the ball okay and didn't trip over myself too much.

"Obviously I have a long way to go, but I was generally pleased with how things went."

There was but one setback. Williams "tweaked" a groin muscle that forced him to sit out during the Saturday afternoon and Sunday practices.

"I had a couple personal goals for myself and one of them was not to get injured," Williams admitted. "Football is just a violent sport, not just in terms of hitting but in how you move your body. No matter how many routes I could have run on the ship, my body was never going to be quite ready to jump into this."

The good news for Williams is that his Navy career will take a temporary backseat come May 24, when he is allowed to leave active duty in favor of the reserves.

Williams struck a deal with the Navy that allows him to pursue an NFL career for the next two years. If by then he has failed to make a team, not even a practice squad, he'll have to return to the Navy.

"If I haven't made a team by then it will be time to cut my losses anyway," Williams said. "By then, I'll know."

Contrary to what you might expect, Williams' voyage back to the U.S.S. Boxer was a relatively short one -- she was in port in San Diego. He expected that questions would be forthcoming from his shipmates, but suggested that it wouldn't be any harder for them to imagine him in a Packers uniform than it is for him.

"It's hard for me to picture sometimes," Williams said. "My regular job is so normal, or at least relatively normal. Coming out here and doing this is a dream come true, but I have a lot of work left.

"I really want to make this team."

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