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Packers Cornerback Paid His Dues

January 23, 1998

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Before he paid his dues in the NFL this season, Green Bay Packers cornerback Tyrone Williams had to pay his debt to society.

``Right now, from where I came from, I’m sitting about as pretty as I could be,″ said Williams, who became a starter for the Super Bowl champs just three months after doing time last summer at the Lancaster County Correctional Facility outside Lincoln, Neb.

Williams served 126 days of a six-month sentence for shooting a gun at an occupied car during a drunken stupor while at the University of Nebraska in 1994.

His colleagues weren’t the only ones who found it hard to believe.

``I couldn’t imagine it happening, either,″ Williams said. ``I had never had a brush with the law. It was shocking to me, too. But I know what it was now. I was out drinking like crazy, acting crazy, you know?

``You can’t do that, man. You have to realize drugs and alcohol can blur your vision. But it’s not an excuse.″

No one was hurt Jan. 30, 1994, when Williams fired two shots that struck a car carrying Kevin Porter, who played for the New York Jets, and a Nebraska student.

Williams said he swore off alcohol the minute he came to the next morning and hasn’t had a sip since.

``I couldn’t go out and social drink,″ Williams said. ``If I took a drink, it was over. I mean, there was no one beer, I wouldn’t do it like that.″

He doesn’t blame the booze for his actions, only for clouding his judgment.

``Sometimes, I try to find an answer to what happened,″ Williams said. ``But I can’t find that answer, man.″

Delays in his case allowed him to compete in 1995, when Williams won his second national championship with the Cornhuskers. The Packers drafted him in the third round in 1996, certain he’d get only probation.

In November of that year, Williams pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of third-degree assault. He expected probation, but got prison instead.

``Everyone was very supportive,″ he said. ``A lot of people _ friends, coaches, coach Mike Holmgren _ called me at the facility and told me to hang in there. I prayed and asked the Lord to get me through it. I knew there was going to be a brighter light at the end of the tunnel.″

Williams didn’t do time with hardened criminals. He was in a low-security, work-release program with the likes of deadbeat dads and drunken drivers.

But he was a convict nonetheless.

``It changed me in a better way,″ Williams said. ``I’m a more mature person about life. I’m a family man now, a godly man now.″

He’s an NFL starter now, going after his fourth consecutive championship.

Williams was thrust into the starting position when Craig Newsome tore up his left knee on the first play from scrimmage in the season opener.

At first, quarterbacks targeted Williams, but throws his way dwindled after he had a great game at New England in Week 8, when he made two touchdown-saving deflections on a goal-line stand that turned the Packers’ season around.

``That’s where this all began, right there with Tyrone Williams,″ said safety Eugene Robinson, who credits Williams the most for Green Bay’s streak of 31 consecutive quarters without allowing a TD pass.

After spending time behind bars, Williams said the dread of getting beat deep doesn’t seem like much of a demon anymore.

``Oh, I use that as energy,″ said Williams, who will cover Ed McCaffrey in the Super Bowl. ``When things ain’t going the way you plan them to go, you use it. You say, `This isn’t anything. I’ve been through much tougher things than this.′ ″

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