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A CONVERSATION WITH CHARLIE WILLIAMS

Posted Jul 3, 2012

Charlie Williams is in his first season as wide receivers coach with the Colts. Williams spent the five previous years in the same capacity at the University of North Carolina. Williams held collegiate roles at Arizona, Miami, Long Beach City College, New Mexico State, TCU, Minnesota and South Carolina. He spent six seasons (1996-2001) working under Tony Dungy at Tampa Bay. This is the second of a two-part visit with Williams.


What is your favorite quote on football, leadership, etc. that has shaped your career the most? Explain how/why/when you found it and how you have applied it.

“What we just talked about, ‘Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking.’  That is my saying.  I talk to my players and hopefully it sinks into their minds and how they go about preparing themselves to play.  This is character training through sports, and it does not apply just to the field.  I used to hear Tony Dungy in Tampa tell guys, ‘Nothing good happens after twelve o’clock.’  You have a decision.  You can stay out, or you can go home.”

 

How lucky were people who worked under Tony Dungy?

“Extremely fortunate.  He taught so many life lessons to men, and they listened.  He was a head football coach and his life didn’t change at home.  So many of us, our lives change at home because we were trying to do good jobs so we can stay in this business.  I’ve never seen a man more even-keeled as Tony Dungy.  People who don’t know him have an image of him, and those of us who are fortunate enough to know him notice how he is in person, and his person exceeds the image others hold of him.  I was honored that my name was mentioned in his first book.  I didn’t open it hoping to see it, I opened to book to hear his message.  His second book was as good or better than his first one.  It is special whenever you see him.  When I was at North Carolina, I invited him to speak with our players.  We were going through some trials and tribulations there.  The character of the players was not where it needed to be, it was all about them, not the team.  I was honored he took the time to address the team.  Tony can present a topic in a way that everyone can understand.  He harps on the importance of details, and I will put another one of his sayings on our meeting room, ‘No Excuses, No Explanations.’ ”    

 

How much of coaching is coaching the sport and how much of it is teaching young men?

“I think there is a 50-50 mix.  You’re teaching a guy how to do something a certain way.  You teach him in the classroom, so he has to see it on the board.  After you teach them there, you have a chance to teach him on the field.  As they have their victories, you can go back and show them the whole process, ‘This is how we started, this is where we ended up.’  You guide guys through their sport, and you can help them with structure and reasoning that extends into life.”

 

When you can match affinity with respect, that is special in coaching, isn’t it?

“It is, and I have been really fortunate to be in those situations.  I had it with Tony Dungy in Tampa.  Players here saw that with him and with Jim Caldwell.  You never heard a lot of yelling and screaming.  There are a lot of ways to skin a cat, and I wish I had that demeanor.  Sometimes, I raise my voice to make players know it’s not going to be a day where they can cruise through things or get by with less than a full effort because they are tired.  Chuck Pagano is the same type of person who creates a great environment for his staff and players, and they respond to him.  One of the first things you hear from Coach Pagano is the word, ‘relationships.’  He is sincere with that.  He and his brother, John, are sons of a coach – Sam Pagano.  Sam is a giant in the profession, and Chuck and John both learned from a great teacher.  They know what it takes to win and guide men.  They know all about coaching.  This is great opportunity for me, and I’m glad to be here.  I know the people who watch the Colts will see these qualities in Coach Pagano.  I’ve watched him grow through the years.  I knew once he got the coordinator’s job in Baltimore, it would only be a matter of time before he led a team.”

 

What is the geographic area where you have lived or worked that you like the most?

“Arizona is one of my favorites.  The weather is always nice.  You can always play golf.  You play all year round.  I’m getting close to retirement age and my goal is to buy a little place in Arizona, Phoenix or Scottsdale, and be able to play golf every day, kick back, relax and watch the pro sports they have down there.”

 

Who is the person most responsible for you to make it to professional football and/or the NFL?

“I would have to say Tony Dungy and Chuck Pagano.  They are the men who hired me.  Chris Foerster, a good friend of mine who coached here in Indianapolis and who I was with in Tampa, was the person who brought my name up to Tony.  I would have to throw his name in there, too.  I thank all of them for this opportunity.  There are only 32 wide receiver coaches in this league, and I am one of them.  It’s an honor to be here.”

 

What is your greatest football moment prior to the NFL and in the NFL?

“In college, it was taking the TCU team, where I was receivers coach, when we were about 20-point underdogs to Arkansas in 1990 and beating them there.  We played a picture-perfect game and won, 54-26.  We excecuted our game plan perfectly.  We had them confused, and it was a great night.  You would have thought we won the Super Bowl when no one expected us to win.  The airport was packed when we landed the plane.  In the NFL, it was the chance to get to the NFC Championship game with Tampa Bay against St. Louis, the ‘Greatest Show on Turf.’  We had a chance to beat them, but we couldn’t quite pull it off.  It went to the end and we lost, 11-6.  I always will remember those two moments.  When you lost those title games, your staff coached in the Pro Bowl.  People would say, ‘At least you got to do that, so it’s some consolation.’  It’s not.  If that were the last game you were able to coach, you would not want that result to be your last experience.  You would much prefer winning and going to the Super Bowl.  That’s the pinnacle everyone is trying to reach.”

 

What is it about football that drives you the most?

“The opportunity to compete every Sunday drives me the most.  You work all week like you’re in school.  You’re watching film in the film room like you are taking notes off the chalkboard, and you’re taking a final exam every Sunday.  The competition on Sunday is great.  The adrenaline is flowing.  The mental stimulation is real.  You’re matching wits and strength with the guys on the other side of ball.  You know you’ve passed the test when you smell the victory.”

 

Do you like the relationships along the way, or do you remember the accomplishments?

“There are great relationships with a lot of people, and I’ve been a lot of wonderful places, too.  The competition is it for me, running across to shake your buddy’s hand when you’ve won is great.  You shake regardless of the outcome, and you don’t rub it in when you’ve won.  I remember the victory handshakes more than the handshakes after losses, but you have to be a real person and do it no matter how a game ends.  I remember once coaching junior high basketball and my dad was sitting in the stands.  The other coach rubbed me the wrong way and I didn’t want to shake his hand.  My dad called me and said, ‘You lost a tough game, but go shake that coach’s hand.’  I did and from that point on, I’ve always done the right thing.  I’ve never left a field without the proper behavior.”

 

Do you have any rituals or superstitions?

“I don’t.  I really don’t, not even as a player.  I’m going to wear my uniform the same way each week.  I’m going to wear it the right way with pride, the way everyone else is supposed to wear it.  I’m not going to do anything to deviate from the uniform, or to show or bring attention to myself.  When I was coaching baseball and we were rolling, I probably wore the same dirty hat through the season.  There has been nothing in football like that, though.”

 

If you weren’t coaching, what would you do?

“I’d probably be teaching physical education and health on the high school level.  I would be trying to reach young people and affect their lives in a positive way.  I’d talk about the dangers of unclean leaving, or ‘You’re too young to be called a father, or daddy.’  Those kinds of things.”

 

Who is the most memorable player you have coached?

“I would pick Keyshawn Johnson at Tampa Bay and Hakeen Nicks at North Carolina.  Those are two players who brought different things to the table.  What people remember about Keyshawn is the book “Just Throw Me the…Ball.’  Keyshawn came to work every day, and he worked.  He came to play every Sunday.  He wanted the ball all the time, but he came to practice every day and he came on Sundays to win.  Nicks had a goal and a plan.  When I met him, his plan was to get to the National Football League, and there was no turning back.  He got there.  I talked to him along the way during the playoffs last year.  I talked to him when he was going to San Francisco for the NFC Championship game.  He said, ‘We’re going out there to get after those guys.  They think they’re going to beat us.’  He told me to remember he didn’t play when the team met in the regular season, and he was the difference in that championship game.  He also told me prior to that they were going to win in Green Bay because they (the Giants) were going to go to the Super Bowl.  They took some big steps on the road last year.  Those two guys are memorable.”

 

Your career likely has kept you from traditional holiday celebrations.  Do you have one that stands out in particular?

“Being on the college and pro level, the one that is the most different for us is Thanksgiving.  Most people wake up on Thanksgiving and the turkey is in the oven.  They’re watching football games, but we’re always practicing first.  After we practice, guys will go home, take a nap and then come over to our house if they can’t make it home to family.  They come over, we cut the turkey, we watch the games, they fall asleep then wake up and have dessert.  They can take a goodie bag and go home.  That’s the one holiday for us that’s been abbreviated.  Christmas has been abbreviated, too, depending on if you’re in a bowl game.  Usually, you have to open the presents early.  My daughter is young, so we have to trick her, ‘Santa came early to our house this time because you were good.’  When everyone else was getting presents at the bowl site, we had to have more presents, ‘Somebody just dropped these off for you.’  Christmas and Thanksgiving can be different.  My wife, Lisa, has the food rolling when I get home.  My job is to make sure I have everything else ready for when the players come by, and I slice the turkey.  Lisa does the hero work.  She does the abnormal to make everything else normal.”

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