Tramon Williams — unwanted after high school and college — was very much wanted by the Green Bay Packers.
Williams signed a contact extension through the 2014 season, a source told Packer Report on Tuesday afternoon.
Williams, who likely would have been an unrestricted free agent after this season, is an incredible rags-to-riches story. He was not recruited out of high school and spent his first year at Louisiana Tech as a student before deciding to give football another shot. As a senior at Tech, he picked off three passes and led the nation with 19 passes defensed. Still, he wasn’t drafted in 2006 and was among the Texans’ final cuts that summer. He was out of football until being signed to the Packers’ practice squad on Nov. 29, 2006.
After picking off nine passes in 19 starts over the previous two seasons, Williams has been playing under a restricted free agent tender of $3.04 million this season.
Williams has emerged as a Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback, with his position coach, Joe Whitt, frequently saying that Williams is among the top handful of cornerbacks in the league.
And now, he’ll be paid like it. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the deal is worth $33.074 million, with a $6 million signing bonus.
“How does it happen? I don't know,” Whitt said in the Cover Story for the new Packer Report Magazine. “I don't know how (Williams) got missed out of high school. With his skill set, the way that he can bend, the way that he can jump, great kid, I don't know how you get missed out of high school. But then coming to this level, I didn't evaluate him, but just with skill set alone, he should have been looked at. It didn't happen. But now he's playing up to his potential, he's playing as good as any corner that's playing right now.”
Locked up frequently against the opponents’ top receiver, Williams is tied for seventh in the NFL with a team-high four interceptions. His 16 passes defenses trail last year’s season total of 22. He has one sacks and is averaging 7.2 yards per punt return.
“You’ve got to relish it because you know the ball’s going to be thrown to you, regardless of your name,” Williams said of matchups against the likes of Randy Moss and Roddy White. “You could be Darrelle Revis or Charles or Champ (Bailey), if you’re on the best receiver, you’re going to get the ball thrown at you. It’s just one of those deals where it gives you a chance to make a play and get some recognition out of it. Competitive spirit by itself challenges you and keeps me going. It doesn’t take much motivation.”
Always a playmaker, Williams has been playing more consistently and confidently.
“I think just being around the game a little bit more, I kind of know what to expect now and am reacting on things that you’ve watched during film study,” Williams said for the Cover Story. “Over the years, I’ve watched film and I’ve always been good at watching film, but when you get in the game, you read some things. Do you have enough nerve to trust your reads? Do you have the nerve to, OK, you know what’s coming, to go and get it? Are you scared that they may do something else? That’s where I was during other years. I may go ahead and try it every now and then but I didn’t have that mind-set to do it every time, because I was kind of being more safe.”
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.