RENTON — As the backup quarterback delivered pass after pass, Mike Williams wrapped his massive mitts around each offering. Wobble or bullet, it seemed as if the tandem spent years together.
In fact, Laila has spent most of her six years connecting with Dad. So the game of catch was not unusual for them, although it seemed to amuse all of the passers-by after a recent practice.
At the moment — part of a visit with Mom to training camp — Laila is, as they say in football, deep in the depth.
Then again, so was Charlie Whitehurst.
No one around the Seahawks last winter would have bet even a Jones Soda that Williams or Whitehurst would cause the slightest ripple.
In four years on the NFL bench in San Diego after being drafted in the third round, Whitehurst had done nothing.
At least he was still in the league.
Williams, a first-round pick (10th overall) by Detroit in 2005, washed out of the NFL after 37 catches, three seasons and three teams. Entitled, lazy, fat, he was also called less pleasant things by coaches, teammates and fans disappointed in him.
So when these marginals hooked up for the Seahawks’ first touchdown of the exhibition season, a 51-yard catch-and-run dagger Saturday against Tennessee, fireworks went off over the blue-light table where the Seahawks did some of their off-season shopping.
The Titans defense was “in blitz and Charlie saw it and checked out of the call,” said Williams, deferring credit for the play’s success. “I knew (the defender) was going to be one-on-one with me.
“It was one of those all-or-nothing plays for the defense. Either they make a big play or I make a big play.”
Williams took the six-yard slant, made a single move around the defensive back and was gone so fast it made one wonder why it seems so hard to score touchdowns in the NFL.
And why someone of Williams’ superb physical gifts scored just two career TDs.
Williams might have wondered too, during his two-year absence from pro ball. Whatever he concluded, he’s grabbing onto his last chance at redemption with his old USC coach, Pete Carroll, almost as tightly as he hugs Laila.
Not that he will explain it in such terms.
“Everyone makes a big deal out of me being out of the league, and now coming back,” he said. “But I don’t look at is as deserving a pat on the back as much as doing what’s expected of me.
“If I was a rookie taken 10th in the draft this year, you would expect this of me, and I would expect it of myself. Why wouldn’t it be that way?
“I mean, I’m not out here for free. I’m paid to do this.”
Indeed, that is the observation of nearly every fan and NFL wanna-be when a pro athlete squanders prodigious talent. The fact that the revelation has finally come upon Williams may amount to the personnel triumph of the Seahawks’ offseason.
Granted, NFL fake games are full of single-moment stars who quickly disappear. Could happen with Williams too. But little that he has done so far indicates his performance is unsustainable.
“I joke with Golden (Tate, Seahawks’ second-round draft choice) that the Seahawks got two wide receivers in this draft,” he said.
In fact, if the Seahawks had to start the real season this week instead of pretending against Green Bay at Qwest Field on Saturday, the top four receivers probably would be returning vets T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Deion Branch, then Tate and Williams.
At 6-foot-5 and 231 pounds, Williams is the most physically formidable Seahawks receiver since Joe Jurevicius. Almost identical in size to Williams, Jurevicius was an often-overlooked figure in the 2005 offense that reached the Super Bowl, with a career-high 55 receptions for 694 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Not only does a big target make life easier on a quarterback, Williams can also deliver a lick as a blocker. His crusher in aid of Justin Forsett’s 13-yard run in an exhibition game did not go unnoticed by a team that doesn’t get much in that department from Housh and Branch.
“As a runner,” Forsett said, “you can’t help but respect and appreciate that.”
Putting Williams on the field during the two-tight-end sets favored by the new Seahawks offense means that the convoy created with vets John Carlson (251) and Chris Baker (261) will be a rolling nightmare for defensive backs.
Again, delivering the head-snapper was nothing worthy of an attaboy to one who who understands now he spent too much NFL time expecting something he didn’t earn.
“For a guy my size, I should be making that kind of block,” he said. “Otherwise, it’s like a short guy not being fast.”
Or like a splendid athlete not being a great player.