Fate nearly cornered him Wild night catharsis for Pack's Williams

January 24, 1998|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

SAN DIEGO -- As bad as the night of Jan. 30, 1994, was for Tyrone Williams, the Green Bay Packers cornerback knows it could have been worse.

With a little less luck, he might have killed someone.

Fate was on his side, though, when two shots he fired at an occupied car in Lincoln, Neb., struck the car's rear quarter panel and missed its passengers.

"It could have been 10 times worse than what it was," said Williams, who will start in Super Bowl XXXII tomorrow against the Denver Broncos.

"One thing about the NFL: Everybody has a story. I tend to think I'm a lucky guy."

More than he realizes, perhaps.

A promising NFL career might have been derailed because of the shooting incident that resulted from a drunken binge while he was playing football at the University of Nebraska.

Last summer, after two years of legal delays, Williams served 126 days of a six-month sentence for a misdemeanor charge of third-degree assault.

He served his time in a work-release facility in Lincoln, where he was assigned to help condition university athletes five days a week. In other words, he worked out with the football team, went back to the facility to sleep, and spent his weekends there.

"Make no mistake about it, it was jail," Williams, 24, said. "A lot of guys that came through there, I knew, or they knew me."

Jail, in this instance, had no iron bars on windows or barbed-wire fences. There was a gate around the facility, Williams said, but otherwise it was hardly prison-like.

Williams, who pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge, expected probation. He was surprised when District Judge Bernard McGinn, a linebacker on Nebraska's 1965 Cotton Bowl team, gave him jail time.

Williams has said he believed the judge may have been under pressure to issue a jail sentence because of the lack of punishment levied against previous offenders from Nebraska's football program.

Since the incident, Williams has undergone a major transformation in his life. He says he hasn't had any alcohol in 2 1/2 years.

"I don't drink anything but cranberry juice, pineapple juice and apple juice," he said.

The drinking problem -- he acknowledges he's an alcoholic -- began during high school in Bradenton, Fla.

"I started drinking my junior year," he said. "I started with beer. When I went to college, that's when it got heavy. It was a rapid pace at Nebraska. One way to speed things up is get booze in you, and that'll speed things up quick."

In the aftermath of the shooting, Williams, who is married and has a son, straightened out his life and became religious.

Williams has had great good fortune on the football field, as well. He played on Nebraska's back-to-back national champions in 1994 and 1995, then joined the Packers for their Super Bowl run a year ago. Tomorrow will mark the fifth straight year he has played for a championship either in college or the NFL, the first three at Nebraska.

L "It's being in the right places at the right time," he said.

When Packers cornerback Craig Newsome suffered a season-ending injury on the first play of the opener this season, Williams was once again in the right place. He has started every game since then at left corner.

He was held out of the team's first two practices this week because of tightness in his lower back, but he expects to play tomorrow, and he expects Broncos quarterback John Elway to throw his way often.

"It's going to happen," Williams said. "I know what I have to do on the corner. The only way to slow that thing down is when they pass your way, make a play on it and knock it down."

Pub Date: 1/24/98

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