Jimmy Williams makes it a point to say thanks to Shock offensive lineman Ryan Cave nearly every day. Andy Olson, too. And that was long before Williams made his debut with the Spokane Shock last week.
Prior to last Friday, more than six years had passed since Williams suited up for a football game. In 2007 he played for the Atlanta Falcons, the team that drafted him 37th overall in 2006.
That six-year gap prompts three obvious questions. One, what was it like to play in a game again? Two, what did Williams do between 2008 and 2014? And three, why is a former second-round NFL pick playing arena football at the age of 30?
A smiling Williams answers every question in detail, even ones that delve into the issues that limited the length of his NFL career.
The 6-foot-3 Williams had an interception in Spokane’s rout of San Antonio last week.
“I felt like I was a little kid again,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming and I’m glad Dodd (secondary coach Ruschard Dodd-Masters) and AO (head coach Andy Olson) and Cruse (defensive coordinator Travis Crusenberry) have worked with me. I’m just happy for the opportunity.”
The opportunity came about when Williams was playing in a pick-up basketball game in his native Virginia last year. He noticed Cave wearing Shock gear. The two talked afterward and Cave put Shock officials in touch with Williams.
“He’s a dude with a great attitude,” Dodd-Masters said of Williams, who has been on injured reserve with a shoulder injury most of the season. “He reminds me of me. He’s so loud you’re going to know when he’s in the building.”
Williams was a standout defensive back at Virginia Tech. He started five games as a Falcons rookie and two more in his second season.
He was arrested for marijuana possession in the offseason and another violation of the league’s substance abuse policy resulted in his suspension for the 2008 season. He signed with San Francisco early in 2009 but was released a few months later.
“I did it to myself,” Williams said. “I think back and I don’t think I was ready mentally for the NFL as far as preparing myself to be a pro. Now being 30, I take care of my body, eat right, I’m not hanging out as late and running around as much.”
Williams was out of the NFL but received paychecks from the Falcons until 2012. He studied business management at Virginia Tech so he took care of his money.
Of the 2009-14 time period, Williams said he was “growing as a person. Sometimes athletes spend so much time around the game that once we don’t have the game anymore we don’t know ourselves. I took time to grow as a person, reconnect with the family because I spent so much time away and find the love of the game again.”
Williams believes there’s a reason he’s with the Shock.
“To be perfectly honest I know I’m one of the older guys but I feel like I’m 22,” he said. “Being here at this moment and getting that opportunity last weekend, I feel like my life is coming full circle and I’m right on time. People think being older that your time has passed, but I still have a lot of football to play.”
Teammates quiz Williams all the time about his NFL days. He said he doesn’t have regrets because his journey created a better person.
“Some players may not want to talk about their mistakes but I do because I see guys in the same position as me,” Williams said. “I see guys that might be ready to go off on coaches or teammates and I feel like that’s another reason for me to be here. Just to share my experiences and lend an ear, try to pick up a guy if he’s upset about something.”
Shock LB Terence Moore was named the defensive player of the week after he had four tackles, two fumble recoveries and an interception – scoring a pair of TDs along the way – in a 70-30 win over San Antonio. … Cave, who has started seven games on Spokane’s offensive line, is back with the team after being released by Montreal of the CFL. He said the experience was great but he suffered an ankle injury in his last preseason game. … Spokane travels to face the L.A. Kiss on Saturday. Quarterback Erik Meyer suffered a broken collarbone when he was tackled by former Shock roommate Beau Bell in the last meeting May 4. Bell texted Meyer that evening and phoned him the next day to check on his condition. “We’re real close,” Meyer said “It wasn’t a bad hit. It was football, I just landed differently.”