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Green Bay Packers’ Tramon Williams proves doubters wrong in big way

September 7, 2011

September 07, 2011 | Nakia Hogan | The Times-Picayune NOLA.com

Morry Gash/The Associated PressGreen Bay Packers cornerback Tramon Williams, left, is the only undrafted free agent in the NFL with at least four interceptions in each of the past three seasons.

Tramon Williams still doesn’t know why. At this point, the Green Bay Packers cornerback and Houma native doesn’t even care for an explanation why he received so little attention coming out of Assumption High School, and had to walk on at Louisiana Tech, then went undrafted by the NFL after earning first team All-WAC honors and leading the NCAA in passes defended.

All that matters now is that he is a Packer, and a pretty good one.

“It’s something that I really don’t think about,” Williams said this week. “It was pretty much survival. My mom was always there to support me, but I just didn’t get the looks that I thought I should get. …

“I never thought of it as taking the hard road; I just thought of it as sticking to the everyday life plan of playing football like a regular job.”

Since arriving in Green Bay in 2006 – after going through training camp with the Houston Texans and being released – Williams has quietly become one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL. There’s even concrete evidence to prove it.

In his first season as a full-time starter last season, he helped the Packers win the Super Bowl, often outshining former NFL defensive MVP Charles Woodson, and earned his first Pro Bowl berth. He intercepted six passes and defended 23.

And Williams is the only undrafted free agent in the NFL with at least four interceptions in each of the past three seasons.

But Williams didn’t totally emerge as one of the league’s best cornerbacks until the playoffs. That’s when he intercepted three passes, tying Joe Laws (1944) and Craig Newsome (1996) for the franchise single-postseason record.

Williams, who said he grew up rooting for the New Orleans Saints, said he dreamed about having such success in the NFL, but that’s all it was — a dream.

“Sometimes they come through, sometimes they don’t,” he said. “But this one happened to come through, so I am thankful for that.”

The Packers recognized Williams’ skills.

General Manager Ted Thompson signed Williams, who has 16 career regular-season interceptions — including 15 in the past three seasons — to a four-year contract extension worth more than $30 million in November.

“Tramon is exactly what you want an NFL player to be,” Green Bay cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said. “He’s a professional in the classroom. He works hard on the field. He details his work. He is extremely athletic. He is very smart. If you had to draw up a model (cornerback), he is it.

“He plays and practices like he is going to lose his job. And that’s coming from a Pro Bowl player, and in my opinion, one who was the best cover corner in the league last year. He’s going to continue to get better because of the way he works.”

On Thursday night, he’ll have to prove himself again, as the Packers host the Saints to kick off the NFL season.

With the Saints’ pass-happy offense, Williams figures to get plenty of work against receivers Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem. New Orleans’ receiving corps is largely an unheralded quartet that has yet to land a player in the Pro Bowl.

But Williams said the group is widely respected, and the four combined to catch 228 passes for 2,888 yards and 21 touchdowns last season.

Because the Saints spread the ball around so much, Williams said it will be more difficult for him and his teammates to slow the Saints, even though none of the their receivers are considered elite.

“It’s harder,” said Williams, who is 5 feet 11, 191 pounds. “You are saying that they are not elite guys, but they are all really good guys who compliment each other. Any time you face a team like that it’s always pretty tough.”

More often than not Williams has been able to step up to such challenges.

“He has come a long way,” Woodson said. “Combining the knowledge of the game with his athletic ability has allowed him to become one of the better corners in this football league. It’s been fun just to watch him grow as a player and the confidence with which he plays the position.”

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