Jimmy Williams, 30, who grew up in Hampton, has resumed his career with the Arena Football League's Spokane Shock in the state of Washington. It's his first season in the AFL, which puts stress on the secondary with offensive-friendly rules such as allowing receivers in forward motion at the snap.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound defensive back spent much of the season on injured reserve because of a shoulder problem, but he has helped the Shock to a 9-7 record, putting Spokane second in the three-team Pacific Division and third in the six-team National Conference.
He has 8.5 tackles, has intercepted two passes for a total of 21 return yards, and has broken up two passes.
The playoff-bound Shock has yielded the third-fewest points (751) in the 12-team league, giving up 46.9 per game.
According to The Spokesman-Review, a newspaper in Spokane, Williams was playing a pickup basketball game in Virginia last year when he noticed offensive lineman Ryan Cave, a former Hampton University player, wearing Shock gear from his time in Spokane. They talked, and Cave put Shock officials in touch with Williams. (Cave now plays for the Canadian Football League's British Columbia Lions.)
Williams first made his name on the Peninsula in three years with Hampton High's Crabbers, including a junior year in which he had four interceptions and 86 tackles, plus eight catches for 217 yards and three touchdowns.
Then he starred for Bethel as a senior quarterback and safety/outside linebacker, accomplishing a rare double: more than 100 tackles and more than 1,000 yards of total offense in the same season. He also excelled in basketball.
With Virginia Tech, Williams intercepted nine passes and made 264 tackles. As a senior in 2005, he achieved consensus All-America honors and first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference recognition after picking off a league-high five passes. He was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation's top defensive back.
Atlanta chose him 37th overall in the 2006 draft, and he made 24 tackles and started five games as a Falcons rookie. He finished two years with the Falcons with 40 tackles and an interception in 27 games, but an arrest for marijuana possession and another violation of the NFL's substance-abuse policy prompted his suspension. He signed with the San Francisco 49ers as a free agent in 2009 but was cut a few months later.
"I did it to myself," Williams told The Spokesman-Review. "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. I know I'm one of the older guys, but I feel like I'm 22. ... 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."
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