GREEN BAY – It was roughly five years ago Tramon Williams, at the peak of his powers, began mapping out the next phase of his NFL career.
The Pro Bowl cornerback, who intercepted 28 passes over a six-season stretch from 2008-13, knew all too well how he must tailor both his game and his body to play at an elite level well into his 30s.
Learning from the likes of Charles Woodson and Al Harris, Williams became dedicated to proper dieting, discipline and training. Williams also was introduced to yoga from receiver Terrell Owens, a proponent of soft-tissue recovery during his 16-year Hall of Fame career.
The strategy appears to have worked. Now on the cusp of his 12th NFL season, the 35-year-old Williams is set to return to the Packers’ locker room after spending the past three seasons in Cleveland and Arizona.
Based on the film, Head Coach Mike McCarthy sees a hungry veteran with a lot left in the tank.
“He doesn’t look 35,” said McCarthy at last week’s NFL Owners Meetings in Orlando. “He looks great. He doesn’t look like he’s changed since the day he left. I’m excited that he’s back and he’ll definitely give us outstanding leadership there in the secondary.”
To this day, Williams remains one of Green Bay’s greatest success stories. A former walk-on at Louisiana Tech, Williams caught on the Packers’ practice squad in 2006 as an undrafted free agent before making the 53-man roster the following year.
Williams’ breakthrough season came in 2010, when he snagged six interceptions in the regular season and added three more during the Packers’ run to Super Bowl XLV.
Williams signed with Cleveland as an unrestricted free agent in 2014 and spent two seasons there before joining the Arizona Cardinals at the start of training camp last July.
A healthy scratch during the first month of the season, Williams enjoyed a renaissance down the stretch. In nine starts opposite All-Pro Patrick Peterson, Williams recorded 40 tackles, 12 passes defensed and two interceptions at 34 years young.
Packers welcome back CB Tramon Williams who has played in 167 games with 130 starts during his 11 NFL seasons. Photos by Chris Callies, Harmann Studios, AP and James D. Smith
Looking to continue his playing career, Williams re-signed with the Packers last month. Along providing inside-outside versatility, Williams brings experience to a young secondary that looks substantially different than the one he left.
With Davon House currently a free agent, that leaves Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Demetri Goodson as the only defensive backs currently on the roster from Williams’ last season in Green Bay in 2014.
“Getting Tramon back was key,” McCarthy said. “He played extremely well in Arizona last year. I had a chance to visit with him at length and talked about his experience in Cleveland and Arizona. His tape was really good. He doesn’t look like he aged a day. He’s excited to be back.”
With Damarious Randall now in Cleveland, former second-round picks Kevin King and Quinten Rollins stand atop the Packers’ offseason depth chart alongside Williams.
A quartet of former college free agents – Lenzy Pipkins, Josh Hawkins, Herb Waters and Donatello Brown – also return in hopes of becoming the next undrafted gem to emerge in Green Bay’s secondary. That’s not to mention the 12 draft choices General Manager Brian Gutekunst will have at his disposal when the Packers first go on the clock in three weeks.
King, the 33rd overall pick in last year’s NFL Draft, showed promise during his rookie season despite a lingering shoulder injury that ultimately required season-ending surgery.
The offseason reports on his recovery have been promising to this point, according to McCarthy, and the Packers are banking on big things from King in 2018.
“I think he’s going to take the jump,” McCarthy said. “He’s definitely got that in him and he’s the right kind of guy. He’s had the surgery and he’s on track. But I look for Kevin to be a force out there.”