A welcome sight in the media room adjacent to Winter Park Thursday night was the return of Pat Williams to the facility in which he was large and in charge for six seasons.
Williams has been retired for two years, so when his phone blew up and he saw Vikings general manager Rick Spielman’s name on the other end, he had know idea that, as part of the Vikings 2013 draft party, the team was going to sign Williams to a one-day contract. An immensely popular player and teammate, Williams said he was pleasantly surprised to see a call coming from Minnesota.
“Spielman called me out of the blue,” Williams said with a laugh, re-enacting the moment by looking at his cell phone in shock. “I was like, ‘What is Spielman calling me for?’ I had no idea. He kind of surprised me.”
It marked Williams’ return to Winter Park for the first time since the team opted not to re-sign him following the 2010 season. He said he wasn’t sure if he was going to return to the NFL or not because he was getting conflicting reports from his brain and the rest of his body.
“You’re always 50/50,” Williams said. “The last year I was here, the mind said I could still play, but the body was saying, ‘It’s time to go, Pat.’ I was ready to go.”
He said his retirement turned out to be his choice. He felt he could play another year, but it was going to have to be the right situation and, when that didn’t materialize, he didn’t look back.
“If it wasn’t a Super Bowl contending team, I didn’t want to go just to get banged up,” Williams said.
By his own admission, it took more than a year for his body to start feeling better, but added that he is as close to 100 percent now as he has been in some time and he’s getting on with his post-NFL life.
Williams has been hired to coach defensive line at a high school in his hometown of Monroe, La. He is going back to school to get his teaching certification and said he is very happy coaching at the high school and some day hopes to be a high school head coach. However, he has no aspirations to coach in college of the pros.
“Pros and college take too much time,” Williams said. “They’re still over there right now. Even the strength coach is still in there. Nah, that’s too much time. I want to set my own schedule if I leave early.”
When Williams left the NFL, he still had the stigma of the StarCaps scandal looming over him. Asked if he had any regrets about spending tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to fight the four-game suspension the league imposed upon him and Kevin Williams, not only does Williams not have regrets, he wouldn’t change a thing about his fight to clear his name.
“I’m not going to regret it,” Williams said. “They didn’t get a chance to get me. I walked out on my own. They never got a chance to say they suspended Pat Williams. I don’t regret it. I’d do it over. I’d do the same thing.”
Williams reminisced about his years in Minnesota, ranging from the climate to being the locker room enforcer asked by coaches to keep young players in line. Asked of his memories of the Vikings, the first that came to mind was the chaos that followed the collapse of the Metrodome roof. However, that was quickly followed up by memories of the 2009 season and the Vikings Super Bowl run. He claimed that has gotten over that heartbreaking loss, but the more he started talking about it, it was clear that he’s not completely past that defeat.
“I still argue with people about it – that the Saints had the better team,” Williams said, his tone getting a little angrier with each successive word. “They really didn’t. If you know football, you know we whooped their ass. We basically gave it to them with all those damn turnovers. If we hadn’t have turned the ball over, we would have blown them out. But they don’t know football back home.”
Williams was on a whirlwind tour of Minnesota, stopping in at his car-detailing business in Minneapolis, going to Winter Park to sign his contract and ending the night at the team’s draft party at the Metrodome. He was his old jovial self, saying he came away from the one-day contract with a modest signing bonus.
“I got a Vikings pen that I used to sign it,” Williams said with a smile and a laugh. “I’m keeping that.”
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.