UK's Williams learning patience

August 24, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Based on what he did last year, it would be easy for Mike Williams to feel a little bit overlooked going into this season.

He started 11 of 12 games at strong safety and made 98 tackles, the most by a Kentucky defensive back since Melvin Johnson in 1994. He had at least six tackles each game and finished the season with 6.5 tackles for loss.

Yet even though he improved all of his numbers from the 2002 season and is considered one of UK's most aggressive players, Williams heard all summer how incoming freshmen Wesley Woodyard and Marcus McClinton might push him for playing time. Defensive coordinator Mike Archer openly praised both freshmen and made sure Williams knew competition was coming.

"They were just excited about the new freshmen coming in and hoping they can really play," Williams said. "They had not forgot about me. They were just excited to have the new players.


"Coach Archer was trying to push and motivate the older players. That's his job. He was using the freshman to scare me a little bit. But I knew what the coaches were doing. Besides, I like competition."

Archer's biggest criticism of Williams last season was that he tended to be too aggressive at times. Williams was so anxious to make plays that he would rush to get involved in a play and forget his assignment.

"I have learned to slow down and play more under control and not be so wild. That way I can make more plays than what I have been," Williams, a senior, said. "That's hard for me because I am so used to just coming up and flying around. I am trying to make more form tackles and not miss so many like I have in the past.

"I know I have lost all my focus and just come up wild trying to take off someone's head in the past. Sometimes I end up hitting my own teammates. I really have learned to be more under control. It doesn't take away from what Mike Williams can do. I am still going to come up and hit. I'm just going to be smarter about it."

Off the field, Williams is much more relaxed. He likes to play video games with teammates because that "keeps me out of trouble and in the house." Williams also enjoys the rare trips he gets to make back to Florida to see family and friends.

Williams, a sociology major, knows Archer expects him to be a better leader this year.

"I have been here four years and understand what the coaches want and how they want us to work and play," Williams said. "I think everybody is more comfortable with the staff this year. We have been together a year and we have confidence in each other.

"I love playing for coach Archer. He's very excitable. He will get on you if you mess up, but if you do well, he will also congratulate you immediately."

He stays in touch with Dennis Johnson

One of the first players Williams met when he came to Kentucky was Dennis Johnson, who is entering his third season with the Arizona Cardinals.

The two still talk often and Williams admits he's dreaming of playing in the NFL himself.

"I really want to have a big year. This is my senior year. I am going all out all the time," Williams said. "I would love a chance to play in the NFL. That's what I am praying for as long as I don't have any more injuries. That's my dream and something I would really like to do."

His first priority, though, remains winning Sept. 5 when Kentucky opens the season at Louisville.

"We need to come up for more run stops. If we fill the holes, no team can run on us and that's how we can beat Louisville," Williams said.

Williams played at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium two years ago when UK beat the Cardinals 22-17. He's confident Kentucky can win again Sept. 5 even though the Cards are a decided favorite.

"We have to beat Louisville this year. We have to," Williams said. "We can win. We are going to beat Louisville."

A guaranteed win?

"Maybe I shouldn't say it that way," Williams said. "It will be a good game, and we can win. But we are expecting to win. I'm not going to deny that."

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