The Miami Hurricanes free safety and head hunter Darryl Williams helped the team win the National Championship in 1989 and 1991. Quick, fast, and fluid, Williams was a great athlete who showed the willingness to apply the hit as well as sit in zone to make the pick. A team leader out of the gate, Darryl had great instincts and reacted well to plays. The knock on him was his lack of size (6’0″, 193) and experience at the position (only a 2 year starter). He’d finish as the Hurricanes 4th all-time leading tackler with 173 total tackles, and 8 picks for 150 yards, 2 td, and 4 fumble recoveries. An All American in college recording 84 stops and 3 picks in 1991, Williams would declare early and be drafted by the Bengals in a draft day swap with the Washington Redskins during the first round (#28) of the 1992 draft. It’d be the first time the Bengals would draft a safety in the first round of the NFL draft, underscoring their attempts to keep up with the pass happy Oilers in the AFC Central arms race.
Williams rookie season was a strong performance in 1992, with 4 picks, 2 sacks and 78 tackles starting 12 games that season. It’d be in 1993 that he’d start the oddest of streaks: the NFL record for most consecutive starts by a free safety, a record he still holds to this day with 108 games. During that season Hitman made an interception that he’d return 97 yards in a 24-16 loss to the Steelers. Darryl would also wreck havoc in the secondary recording a career high 126 tackles. He’d also notch a safety in 1995 before heading west to play for the Seattle Seahawks.
It’d be in 1996 that Williams put together a masterful season with 5 picks for 148 yards and a touchdown. Williams would earn his only Pro Bowl nod and AP nomination in the following season in 1997, where he led the league with 8 interceptions for 172 yards and a touchdown. Although he had a down year in 1998 with 3 picks, and his streak of starts would end in 1999, he’d prove that indeed you can return home, resigning with the Bengals in 2000. Hitman would play with the squad through 2001, recording a career high 3.5 sacks in his final season.
I quit collecting cards pretty much en masse after 1992. GameDay, Action Packed and Star Pics, were the last brands I really liked at that point, but by 1993 everybody had left the style that defined themselves behind, (ProSet and Score,) were out of business, (StarPics,) or were concentrating on premium branding (Fleer) that I just didn’t care about. I sent off for Darryl at the end of August and got a very quick reply in a week. Oddly there was no post mark from where he sent it to me from on the envelope that had taken some water damage, but thankfully the cards were unharmed. He signed the 3 cards I requested, plus the additional card I asked him to keep. A nice return from the Cincinnati Hitman.
G/Gs 156/137 Tac 715 Sac 9.5 Fum 15 Int 31 Yds 691 Avg 22.3 Td 4 Lg 97t