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Top Ten Players Named Mike Williams in NFL History

Somebody forgot to cover Mike Williams

Somebody forgot to cover Mike Williams.

#10: Tie: Mike Williams – linebacker, 1986 (Pittsburgh); Michael Williams – tight end, 2013-current (Detroit)

Nine Mike Williamses have played in the NFL. A Tulsa linebacker of the same name was drafted by the Steelers in the 12th round of the 1986 Draft but never appeared in a game. In April, the Lions selected Alabama tight end Michael Williams. Assuming the former Crimson Tide Williams plays in an NFL game, he will move into sole possession of the #10 slot.

#9: Michael Williams – safety, 1995 (San Francisco 49ers)

An undrafted free agent out of UCLA, Williams played in only four games for the 49ers. Despite the limited playing time, he still recorded 31 solo tackles and forced two fumbles.

#8) Mike Williams – tight end, 1982-1984 (Washington)

A fifth round pick out of Alabama A&M, Williams was part of the Redskins teams that made back-to-back trips to the Super Bowl in ’82 and ’83. Joe Gibbs was famous for using multiple tight ends, which kept Williams on the roster even though he was strictly a blocker and fourth on the depth chart. During Williams’ three-year career, Washington tight ends Don Warren (65-727-2), Clint Didier (41-513-10), and Rick Walker (34-312-4) put up respectable numbers, while Williams recorded just three catches (all in 1982).

#7) Mike Williams – fullback/tight end, 1979-181 (Kansas City)

Williams rushed for over 1,000 yards at New Mexico in both ’77 and ’78, leading the WAC in rushing and winning conference Player of the Year honors in his final season. He once recorded 47 carries for 236 yards for the Lobos in a win over UTEP. The Chiefs drafted him in the 8th round in 1979 a year after Marv Levy reintroduced the Wing-T offense, which featured three running backs, to the NFL (Kansas City rushed 663 times in 1978). Williams rushed 69 times for 261 yards and a score in ’79 before being converted to tight end in 1980. He gained just 12 yards from scrimmage in ’80 and ’81, his final two seasons in the league.

#6) Michael Williams – running back, 1983-1984 (Philadelphia); 1987 (Atlanta)

This Mike Williams went to Mississippi College and earned 103 carries with the Eagles in 1983. Unfortunately, he gained just 385 yards (3.7 YPC) and did not score a touchdown. With Wilbert Montgomery healthy in ’84, Williams became a spare part, and was out of the league a year later. He resurfaced as a replacement player for the Falcons for three games in 1987.

#5) Mike Williams – wide receiver, 1989; 1991-1995 (Detroit, Miami)

A 10th round pick out of Northeastern, Williams was drafted by the Rams and cut by the Lions before landing in Miami. He became a favorite of special teams coach Mike Westhoff, but added almost nothing as a receiver. Still, playing well on special teams kept him employed five years: he stuck around with the Dolphins from ’91 to ’95 despite averaging just 162 all-purpose yards per season.

#4): Mike Williams – wide receiver, 2005-2007; 2010-2011 (Detroit, Oakland, Tennessee, Seattle)

Williams with 50% of his career Lions touchdowns

Williams with 50% of his career Lions touchdowns.

Affectionately known as Big Mike Williams or BMW, this Mike Williams was a college superstar at USC during the Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush days.  In his two seasons with the Trojans, BMW caught 176 passes for 2,579 yards and 30 touchdowns. At 6’5, 229 pounds, many compared Williams to the last wide receiver to be selected first overall: Keyshawn Johnson, another big, tall, possession receiver from Southern Cal.

Maurice Clarett, after being suspended by Ohio State following his freshman year, declared for the NFL Draft in January 2004. In order to be eligible, Clarett brought the NFL to court and challenged the league’s restriction which required that a player be three years removed from his high school draft class to be eligible for the draft.  The case was ultimately a loser, but a federal judge initially ruled that the NFL could not bar Clarett from entering the draft.  The Second Circuit overturned that decision, but by that time, Williams had followed Clarett’s lead by hiring an agent and filing the necessary paperwork to declare.  That made BMW ineligible to play for USC in 2004, so he ended up sitting out the season before entering the 2005 draft.

The Detroit Lions — after selecting Charles Rogers with the second pick in the 2003 Draft and Roy Williams seventh overall in 2004 – drafted BMW with the eleventh pick in 2005.  As it turns out, none of those three wide receivers panned out for Detroit, which fortunately for them did not stop them from drafting Calvin Johnson in 2007. Williams caught just 15 passes in 2006 and 2007 and was out of football in ’08 and ’09. It looked like his NFL career was over until he signed with his old college coach, Pete Carroll, and the Seahawks in 2010.  Surprisingly, Williams caught 65 passes for 751 yards in his first season in Seattle. But the success was short-lived, and Williams is out of the NFL — this time, presumably, for good.

#3) Mike D. Williams – left tackle, 2002-2005; 2009 (Buffalo, Washington)

The fourth pick in the 2002 Draft remains one of the biggest busts in Bills history. But he started 55 games in the NFL, mostly due to his lofty draft status, so he still cracks the list of the best three Mike Williamses in NFL history.

Williams was a standout at Texas, with the typical mammoth size of a tackle selected fourth overall. But he never came close to living up to the hype, struggled in pass protection, and eventually lost his starting job to an undrafted free agent. That looks a lot better in retrospect, though, since the UDFA was Jason Peters. Williams resurfaced in Washington and proved capable at guard in 8 games for the Redskins in 2009. A blood clot near his heart caused him to miss the 2010 season, and he has been out of football since.

Can you believe the Bucs didn't retire Keyshawn's number?

Can you believe the Bucs didn't retire Keyshawn's number?

#2) Mike Williams – wide receiver, 2010-current (Tampa Bay)

The young Buccaneers wide receiver has already done enough to land at number two. Williams is one of just four players in NFL history to record 60+ catches and 700+ receiving yards in each of his first three seasons, an impressive feat known as fun with multiple endpoints. But Williams has been very good with Tampa Bay, and has the fourth most receiving touchdowns since he entered the league.

Of course, that’s a pretty shocking development in many ways. As a sophomore at Syracuse in 2007, Williams caught 60 passes for 837 yards and 10 touchdowns. In 2008, he was suspended for the year for poor grades, while the details of his 2009 season are even hazier. Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone was the Syracuse head coach in 2009, and Marrone claimed that Williams quit on the team in the middle of the season. Months later, Williams had a different, if not entirely plausible, explanation of what transpired. Tampa Bay GM Mark Dominik rolled the dice on Williams, and it worked. Of course, even gambling general managers still must first complete their due diligence:

“I believe as a scouting staff and an organization, we put the most time into this player, more than anybody, because it was that important….He was one of the 30 visits to this organization so we could spend a full day with him. I had multiple conversations with Doug Marrone, the head football coach at Syracuse University. And at the end of the day, I feel very good about this selection, about the talent he brings. And I wouldn’t bring somebody in here if I didn’t feel comfortable about it….

Again, I think there’s a balance between everything. This kid, when you go back and do your research and take a look about what’s really in his past in terms of any aggravated assaults. The only thing I can tell you right now is he had a speeding ticket….So, other than that, this kid did make a mistake in terms of what happened to the Syracuse football team and he regrets it. But we spent countless hours with him at the combine, here. We went to his private workout. Again, I don’t think anybody spent more time than the Buccaneers did and I think we’re going to reap the rewards for it.”

Williams has turned into one of the best young receivers in the NFL, but he needs to produce for a few more years before he gets to wear the crown.

#1) Mike Williams – 1975-1983 (San Diego, Los Angeles Rams)

Williams started 100 games in his career, making him the easy choice for the #1 slot. He was part of a star-studded Chargers draft class in 1975 that produced seven notable NFL players. The stars were on the defensive line, as Fred Dean, Gary Johnson, and Louie Kelcher were first-team All-Pros who each made at least three Pro Bowls. Left tackle Billy Shields started 119 games for the Chargers and protected Dan Fouts’ blind side, while Rickey Young played halfback and fullback, led the NFL with 88 receptions in 1978, and finished his career with 6,951 yards from scrimmage and 39 touchdowns. And in addition to Williams in the secondary, Mike Fuller doubled as a safety/punt returner for eight years with the Chargers and Bengals.

Williams was a very good player in San Diego, starting at right cornerback for eight straight seasons. He recorded 24 interceptions and played in seven playoff games. But 41 years ago, before ever entering the NFL, the man with football’s most common name made his mark on football history.

In 1972, Williams and running back Lora Hinton became the first black football players at Louisiana State. Williams was a three-year starter at LSU, and an All-SEC pick in ’73 and ’74. And he turned in one of the most memorable plays in Tigers history in 1972:

In a driving rainstorm, described by Dan Hardesty of the Baton Rouge State-Times as “the wettest game in all of LSU history,’’ the Tigers made one of nine field goal attempts in a struggle at Florida. In that lake of a football field, Gators speedster Nat Moore caught a screen pass at the Florida 20-yard line, then splashed down the sideline. Williams gave chase and caught Moore 79 yards downfield at the LSU 1.

On the next play, the soggy football was fumbled, and Williams recovered to salvage a 3-3 tie.

“When I looked at the film, I couldn’t believe what I did, either,” Williams said. “Moore was about a 9.3 sprinter. I was about 9.8. But I kept gaining and gaining … until somehow I caught him….People still ask me about that play.”

Mike Herman Williams was a star at LSU and an eight-year starter in the NFL. That makes him the top player named Mike Williams in NFL history.

  • Tim Truemper

    Living in Baton Rouge back in the mid 80’s, I heard so much about that play though I never saw video of it. Its right up there with the Billy Cannon punt return against Ole Miss. As they say in the bayou “Geaux Tigers.”

  • CC

    Can’t make rankings without disagreement, so, I think you have Mike Williams ranked too high.

    • Chase Stuart

      Thanks. I won’t lie, I was a little disappointed no one posted that yet.

  • Shawn O

    #7 on your list passed away on Christmas Eve.


  • #8 was pretty great for the Hawks. I don’t recall why he was cut the following year … Was it something about his weight and drop in efficiency in camp?