Michael Williams is spending the weekend proving he's more than a blocker

Posted May 11, 2013

Within the Alabama offense, TE Michael Williams didn't get a ton of receiving opportunities, but says he only dropped two passes his entire career

Michael WilliamsTE Michael Williams (Photo: C. Wywrot/Detroitlions.com)

Michael Williams would like to change any perception that he was really a sixth offensive lineman who occasionally was allowed to run pass patterns to qualify for being listed as a tight end on Alabama's roster.

Being known as a good blocker at Alabama isn't a negative. It's not like having the reputation of a kleptomaniac bank teller, or a near-sighted optometrist whose eye chart upside down.

Alabama plays tough, hard, winning football. The image of Alabama's offense that most often comes to mind is a running back churning through holes cleared by the road-graders up front. Coach Nick Saban's system has won three national championships in four years, and Williams was a key member of that offense.

The Lions drafted Williams in the seventh round last month primarily because of his blocking. Williams isn't arguing about being regarded as a good blocker, but from the start of this week's rookie camp, his goal has been to show that he can catch the ball when it's thrown to him.

"I want to come out here, run some routes and catch a couple balls," Williams said after Saturday's practice. "You have to add a second dimension. That's what I want to do out here."

The Lions have a roster spot open at tight end. Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler are the returning veterans. Will Heller, primarily a blocker at tight end, H-back or fullback, was not re-signed.

Nathan Overbay, who's been on the practice squad the last two years, and rookie free agent Joseph Fauria are also competing for the third tight end spot.

At 6-6 and 270 pounds, Williams looks like he could have been an offensive tackle if he wanted to add weight. Actually, he played defensive end and tight end in high school in Reform, Ala., 30 miles from the Alabama campus.

He was converted to tight end strictly when he got to Alabama in 2008.

Williams worked on the passing game in practice, but Alabama stuck to the ground in games. Williams had 51 catches in four years, with a high of 24 catches and four TDs in 2012.

"It was situational," Williams said. "You worked on it every day. Our game plan was not more of the pass-happy type offenses. We like to grind it out, impose our will. My skill set fit that. Now I'm trying to add the other dimension to that and become a dual threat.

"When people say something about ‘blocking tight end,' I say I only dropped two passes in my whole career."

Coach Jim Schwartz and his staff coached the South team in the Senior Bowl in January and had Williams on their team. Practices are the most important part of Senior Bowl week, but Williams helped his status in the game. He caught two passes for 39 yards and a touchdown.

Schwartz won't pigeon-hole Williams as strictly a blocker.

"I wouldn't discount him that way," Schwartz said. "He's not the fastest tight end. He's not the smallest. He's a very good blocker. He has a really good command of the whole offense. That was a guy that we had at the Senior Bowl, and he made a great catch on a seven route in the corner against a really good safety.

"He did a nice job of boxing him out and put a nice catch on the ball. He's not a one-trick pony. He's a guy that can contribute in the run game. He can also contribute in the pass game."

Based on how Williams made his commitment to Alabama, the Lions have a prospect who follows his heart when he makes up his mind.

He knew he wanted to play at Alabama when he went to a game with his mother, Wanda, when he was only 12. Williams was a junior in high school when Saban became head coach of Alabama in 2007.

When Saban came calling that year, the deal was clinched -- with his senior year ahead of him, and 50 offers from other major colleges about to roll in. He didn't make any other visits. He made a verbal commitment and signed after his senior year.

"He was there two weeks," Williams said. "He saw some tape of me. We were sitting in the lunch room. I see a Mercedes pull up. I'm looking out the window and see a little short guy get out of the car. It was Nick Saban.

"I was totally surprised. They called me to the office. I knew what it was for then. When you have somebody with the background like Coach Saban, it's a no-brainer.

"If you're a kid on scholarship and don't want to go to the University of Alabama, something's wrong with you."