With the fifth overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, it was a safe bet that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were going to pick a Williams on April 23. But would it be Auburn running back Carnell “Cadillac” Williams or the 6-foot-5, 230-pound USC receiver Mike Williams, a manchild who hails from Tampa?
The Bucs opted to drive the Cadillac instead of the BMW (Big Mike Williams) this year, and after a 3-0 start propelled by their rookie running back, who is leading the league in rushing with 434 yards, there is no doubt that Tampa Bay picked the right Williams.
When the Bucs host the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, they will get a first-hand look at what could have been as Mike Williams returns to his hometown to face the team he grew up rooting for. Despite being passed over for Cadillac, Mike Williams, who was selected 10th overall by the Lions, harbors no ill will towards the Buccaneers.
“That’s the business; I think the Bucs were up front with me, they had a decision to make and they made it, but look at the guy they picked,” said Mike Williams. “He might be a shoe-in for offensive rookie of the year. Cadillac is a good guy. I know him personally and we have mutual friends. If they were going to pick somebody besides me they picked a stand-up guy, and a guy that obviously made their team better in that 15 minutes it took for them to pick him.”
While he is friends with the Bucs’ rookie star, Williams indicated that he would like to give Cadillac a run for offensive rookie of the year starting on Sunday.
“Yeah, but we are in different situations,” Williams said. “I came in with these guys here in this corner (Roy Williams and Charles Rogers), but I’m going to come in here and take care of my business with Detroit because that is what I’m supposed to do.
“I guess the main thing for us is to win. It is a good opportunity for us to see where we are mentally and how far we have come along since our bye weekend. They are 3-0, they’re hot, they have a good team and they look as if they have a playoff caliber team. It is another good test for us early, so to go down there, play well and come out with a win is probably the most important thing.”
Williams, whom Bucs head coach Jon Gruden called “a big, physical presence” on Wednesday, is excited to play before his friends and family in Tampa on Sunday, but said that he won’t be footing the bill for the horde of followers who will be in attendance at Raymond James Stadium.
“Actually, when I got drafted, I pretty much told everybody that they are kind of on their own because it (getting tickets for everyone) is a headache,” Williams said. “It can be a headache, so I am going to have a couple of friends I will have to get tickets for, but for the most part everyone is taken care of.”
Although Williams has just one catch on the season – a 3-yard touchdown against Green Bay in the 2005 season opener – he isn’t necessarily expecting Sunday’s game in Tampa to be a breakout performance for him.
“No, because you want to have that type of mentality every game. You want to make the best of every game, the more opportunities you have, the more opportunities you have to do great things.
“I’ve had friends who have gone home and were kind of nervous or kind of over-excited and for one reason or another didn’t perform as well as they wanted to or did things uncharacteristic. It’s just home; it’s going to be a fun environment. I know the organization pretty well, but I’m going to keep all of that other stuff under the rug and focus in on the game itself.”
Williams is looking forward to seeing some familiar faces on the opposing sidelines on Sunday. Aside from Cadillac, Williams has several friends on the Buccaneers including wide receiver Michael Clayton and linebacker Derrick Brooks.
“I know Mike Clayton pretty well,” Williams said. “The year I had off we got to know each other pretty well, and he was at my Pro Day. Derrick Brooks used to take me to lunch when I was in high school, so I know the group and it will be fun.
“I met Derrick through someone I met through the YMCA down in Tampa. I met him when I was already established as a high school player, so he wasn’t trying to get me to go to Florida State. … Derrick Brooks is real big in the black community in Tampa. He’s helped a lot of my friends become successful, so it’s going to be a fun game. And the guys are excited for it because it’s another road game, it’s going to be another large crowd and we are going to be facing a 3-0 team.”
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