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Catching up with ... Chad Williams

Catching up with ... Chad Williams

His name doesn't resonate with Ravens' fans. His photo draws shrugs. And you never saw his jersey in the stands on game days.

More's the pity, because, in four years as a reserve safety with Baltimore, Chad Williams won respect around the NFL as a big-play defender who could turn a game in a flash.

Playing sparingly from his rookie year in 2002, Williams managed 8 interceptions (returning 3 for touchdowns), 5 sacks, 4 fumble recoveries and a blocked punt.

None of those plays was bigger than the pass he picked off late in a 23-19 victory over Houston, in Williams' first season. His diving catch, with less than two minutes left, killed the Texans' frantic drive and salvaged a Ravens' victory.

Two weeks earlier, against Cincinnati, Williams had blocked a punt that a teammate returned for TD, and raced 98 yards with an interception for a score in a come-from-behind 27-23 victory over the Bengals.

In the dressing room afterward, breathless, he told reporters, "I didn't know how far 98 yards was until I got to the 50."
That day, the Ravens voted Williams all three game balls, for his play on offense, defense and special teams.

If he appeared to be a ball hawk, Williams said, it was because he was perceived as the team's weak link. Opponents zeroed in on the stubby (5-9, 207) defensive back, and he relished the challenge.

"Everyone knew that Ed (Reed) and Ray (Lewis) and Chris (McAlister) were the best at their positions, so, when I was in the game, teams came at me," he said. "I was small; I was their target. But I played big.

"I knew the ball would come my way, and I was opportunistic. I embraced the challenge. I enjoyed going on the field, knowing I'd get some action."

It's a passion he brought to coaching, said Williams, 32, an assistant at Morehouse College in Atlanta. There, he coaches the linebackers at a school that has won five of six games, losing only to Howard.

The players "feed on my demeanor," said Williams. "I'm an up-front, straightforward guy — and tough love has worked so far. My defensive coaches with the Ravens (Rex Ryan and Mike Nolan) didn't have to say much. All they had to do was give me a look — and I want to emulate them to get my point across to my guys."

It was Ryan, he said, who gave him the nickname, "Pound-for-pound."

"Rex told me that, for my height and weight, I was the best in the NFL," said Williams, a sixth-round draft pick from Southern Mississippi.

Twice, in 2002 and 2004, he finished second on the team in interceptions, despite limited playing time.

"Chad is very solid for us," head coach Brian Billick said then. "Since the day he's been here, he does what he's supposed to be doing, when he's supposed to be doing it, how he's supposed to be doing it."

In a 2003 victory over Cleveland, Williams scored on a 52-yard interception return. Later, he flattened the Browns' Jamal White with a crushing tackle that made highlight films.

"He [White] went out for a flare pass," he recalled. "I had a bead on him and just laid into him. On the game footage, you can hear the pads collide."

A year later, in a win over Buffalo, Williams deflected a pass into the hands of the Ravens' Deion Sanders, who scooted for a TD. Moments later, Williams nabbed a pass and took it 93 yards before being dragged down at the Bills' 5-yard line.

"One guy, [offensive tackle] Jonathan Ogden, gave me flak for getting caught from behind," he said. "Since I didn't score, he had to go out on the next play, a sweep, where he pulled a hamstring."

A free agent in 2006, Williams jumped to the San Francisco 49ers, believing he'd play more. He didn't. A year later, he signed with the Kansas City Chiefs, but was one of the team's last cuts.

Two teams offered tryouts, but neither panned out.

"For a year, I sat around, waiting for someone to call," he said. "Then reality set in. I thought, 'I've got to move on.'"

Williams returned to college, completed his degree and spent three years as a volunteer coach at his Birmingham, Ala. high school before accepting a post at Morehouse.

"Coaching," he said, "is what I was called to do."

Looking back, Williams concedes he should have remained in Baltimore.

"In hindsight, I wish I would have stayed with the Ravens," he said. "But I left the game with no regrets. I left everything I had on the field. Mine was a job well done."

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

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