There are athletes that have long, wonderful, Hall of Fame careers in their respective sports, but never achieve the ultimate team goal of winning a championship. World-class players such as baseball's Ernie Banks and Barry Bonds, former Miami Dolphin Dan Marino, and the Utah Jazz's tandem of Karl Malone and John Stockton have never experienced the joy of hoisting over their heads the hardware acknowledging their team as the best.
Packers' cornerback Tyrone Williams is just the opposite. Williams, 29, is the only football player in history to win back-back national championships in college followed by a Super Bowl victory in his first NFL season. In fact, Williams found himself playing in a championship game five years in a row.
"There has always been a competitive spirit in me and I always fought as hard as I could to win the game," Williams said of his winning record. "I know a lot of people say winning isn't everything, but when I go out there, I go out there to win."
The Nebraska Cornhuskers, a perennial contender for the national championship, collected titles in Williams' junior and senior seasons (1994 and 1995) and narrowly missed winning in 1993, when Florida State claimed the crown. The experience with the Huskers in Lincoln, both winning and dealing with fan and media pressure, helped prepare Williams for a quick start on a Packers team that was accustomed to success.
"When I first got here, it was nothing overwhelming because I came from a big university," Williams recalled. "We had press everywhere, everyday in Nebraska, so it was no big deal for me when I came here to deal with the media or play in front of big, loud crowds."
Since joining Green Bay as a third-round pick in the 1996 NFL Draft, Williams has not missed a game, appearing in 96 contests including starting every game the last four campaigns. It is his desire to be a part of whatever happens on the field that drives Williams to compete even at times when other players would not. "I feel like if I'm on the field, we have a chance to win. I've always been this way since I was a kid," he stated. "I told someone the other day that I'm probably about 200-30 in my lifetime and I'd like to keep it that way."
Although he was not flustered by the big crowds and intense scrutiny of life in the NFL, Williams watched one of the Packers' veteran leaders to see how professionals conduct themselves. Fellow cornerback LeRoy Butler, who retired this off-season, was a big influence on Williams' transition to the NFL and served as a role-model. "I watched him my whole career and especially the time I've been here," Williams said of Butler. "I watched the way he handled things, both good and bad."
Williams has proven himself as a true playmaker, posting 18 career interceptions including 17 in the past four seasons, but he has raised his expectations for this season, predicting he could double his interception total of four in 2001. "For myself, I've penciled in eight interceptions because I feel like I'll have the opportunity to get eight this year," he estimated. "I feel like if I have eight picks, keep everyone in front of me, and play at a high level, then we're going to have success."
In 2002, Williams will be counted on to put some of the things he learned from Butler into practice and increase his presence as a leader in the Packers' locker room. "I'm slowly getting into that role," Williams said. "I'm capable of doing it and know how to do it from watching LeRoy all those years."
As far as his accomplishments and reputation as a winner, it hasn't fully registered yet for Williams. "I just sit back and take it in and it's kind of overwhelming, but at the time, you don't really think about it," he commented. "Maybe when I have grandchildren, I'll sit back and tell them about it, they probably won't believe me until I stack some rings in front of them."