The bust label attached to his name doesn’t conjure up bitterness for former Chicago Bears cornerback Roosevelt Williams.
If anything, the situation serves as a precautionary tale for every aspiring NFL player Williams encounters now as cornerbacks coach at Widener University in Chester, Penn.
“I don’t blame anybody but myself,” Williams said. “As a coach now, I try to teach guys what I went through so they don’t have to go through it themselves.”
A third-round pick by the Bears in 2002, Williams is considered by some to be one of the worst personnel moves made by general manager Jerry Angelo, who made the selection during the first year in his tenure as Chicago’s point man for the NFL Draft.
Williams played 13 games as a rookie with two starts, only to be sent packing the following year after training camp.
Now a second-year coach at Widener, Williams still hopes for a chance at redemption in Chicago. Williams plans to apply for a slot in the 2011 Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship, the same program that produced coach Lovie Smith as well as three other current NFL head coaches (Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis, Tampa Bay’s Raheem Morris, and Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin), and would like to rejoin the team that made him the 72nd overall pick in 2002.
Williams figures his unsuccessful stint as a Bear served as preparation for the program, which was originally introduced in 1987 by legendary coach Bill Walsh and places minority college coaches in NFL training camps.
“Chicago is my first love,” Williams said. “Even though it didn’t work out, I’m a Bears fan because they gave me the opportunity to wear that blue and orange and be part of a great tradition. I’m sorry I didn’t meet expectations, but I’d love to go back and be with those guys again. I’ve talked to some of my past coaches like [former head coach] Dick Jauron and [former defensive coordinator Greg] Blache. I was just young and immature. But at the end of the day, I learned the valuable life lessons that attitude will take you everywhere you want to go in life, and to be prepared when your number is called.”
Williams admits he wasn’t adequately prepared for the transition to the NFL coming out of Tuskegee in 2002 as an all-American player, one of the best pure cover corners of that year’s class.
“Coming from the small school I came from, we ran two coverages. It wasn’t rocket science,” Williams said. “They threw a lot at me when I first came in as a rookie, and I got frustrated easily. The coaches saw the frustration and that didn’t sit well. After that first year went by and I finally started to get myself together in terms of attitude, it was too late.”
Williams joined the Cleveland Browns shortly thereafter, but flamed out. He’d do the same in stints with the Washington Redskins and New York Jets. Williams spent the 2006-07 season with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League, before ending a playing career comprised of 20 NFL games with five starts, no interceptions, 20 tackles and only one pass defense.
Still apologetic to the Bears organization and its fans for not panning out as a player, Williams hopes lessons learned from that time help him to make amends as a potential coach.
“I tell everybody that Jerry Angelo and [team president] Ted Phillips gave me a great opportunity to fulfill a childhood dream, and I thank them for it,” Williams said. “I can only blame myself for what happened to me as a player. I mentor players in the league right now to not make the same mistakes I made. That’s my way of giving back.”