How does one write an entire article about a right tackle?
Offensive linemen generally bring their lunchbucket to work, play their asses
off, and don't get a tenth of the credit they deserve. They only time one seems
to hear about them is when they blow an assignment which leads to a QB sack.
James "Big Cat" Williams, however, will probably be remembered as the last Bear
to play for 12 years and three different head coaches. A true warrior such as
Williams, loyal to a team in the reality of today's NFL, can not be forgotten.
Massive 6'7", 330-pound James Williams was signed as a free
agent by Bill Tobin after the 1991 draft. Williams played defensive tackle on a
0-11 team at Cheyney State, and was hungry for more success in the pros.
Williams worked his way into the defensive line rotation his rookie season,
substituting for Steve McMichael and William Perry when needed. The huge rookie
blocked a field goal at Buffalo, picked up his first sack at Green Bay, and
helped with the "push" on William Perry's game-saving FG block against the NY
Giants. Despite his success on the defensive side of the ball in 1991, head
coach Mike Ditka and offensive line coach Dick Stanfel had other ideas for the
Williams played sparingly on defense in 1992 and was
inactive for five straight games. The second-year tackle was having a tough
time cracking the lineup with the emergence of 1991 second-rounder Chris
Zorich, so Stanfel and Ditka decided to move him to offensive tackle midway
through November. The two coaches salivated over the thought of the massive
Williams at right tackle, eventually teaming with the equally-massive Louis Age
on the left side. Soon after, Ditka and Stanfel were fired, but the new Dave
Wannestedt regime's offensive line coach Tony Wise saw the same talent in
Williams that their predecessors had. Big Cat relieved Keith Van Horne against
Tampa in September, then was inactive for the final 12 games of the 1993
Starting in 1994, all the way through his final game with
the Bears in 2002, Williams started an amazing 134 games at right tackle. Even
more amazingly, Williams missed only limited action throughout those seasons,
and didn't miss a single snap in 1995. In addition to his starting duties,
Williams was the "main man" on the Bears' field goal defense unit, blocking or
deflecting eight field goal attempts through 2001. He was voted as a Pro Bowl
alternate after the 1998 season, and officially selected to his first all-star
game following the magical 2001 season.
Williams became one of the teams' most visible ambassadors
throughout his career, and was a roadgrader at his position. Williams was the
veteran recipient of the Bears organization's Brian Piccolo award following
2001. he even appeared in an E-tv Wild on Chicago episode prior to the 2001
Sadly, the warrior Williams was released by Chicago in a
cost-cutting move on February 26, 2003. GM Jerry Angelo announced that
second-year pro Marc Colombo will take Williams' spot on the right side, which
will not be manned by number 71 for the first time in over a decade.