Recruited by future NFL head coach Mike Shannahan to play tailback at Florida in 1981- Shanahan was enamored with John L. Williams talent remarking at one point, “He can do it all.” The Gators were stacked at runningback though, with future NFLers Lorenzo Hampton and Neal Anderson already seeing touches in the backfield, so Williams, who wanted to start in some capacity, demonstrated soft hands and solid blocking and moved to fullback. After splitting time with future NFLer James Jones, Williams became the fulltime starter at fullback in his Sophomore year. Over his career at Florida, John L. piled up over 2,400 yards rushing and at the time a school record 92 receptions out of the backfield.
Because of the lack of respect given to the fullback position and not piling up eye-popping numbers for the Gators, Williams was not considered first round talent. John L. though wowed scouts as a combine wonder and shot up draft boards as a highly sought after once in a lifetime fullback, beating out names in individual drills such as Bo Jackson and finishing second to only Neal Anderson in the 40 yard dash. With teams aggressively positioning to grab Williams, the Seahawks approached the podium and took John L. with the 15th pick of the first round in the 1985 draft.
Stepping into the Seahawks backfield, Williams helped alleviate the pressure off of tailback Curt Warner and provided a nice safety valve for quarterback Dave Kreig in the ‘Ground Chuck’ offense. Seattle was finally able to turn the corner and make the playoffs. Williams rushed for a career high 877 yards and 4 TDs in 1988 as part of the Seahawks’ diversified rushing attack. An intergral part of the Seahawks offense, John L. led the NFL in receptions from the backfield with 76 in 1989, and his 58 catches in 1988 were the first time anybody ever led the team in receptions other than Steve Largent since the franchise had been founded.
With Warner departing to the LA Rams in 1990, and both Krieg and future HoF receiver Largent both in the twilight of their Seattle careers, Williams was leaned on heavily by the team. He’d finish with a career high 699 yards receiving in 1990, and back to back 700+ yards rushing season in 1990 and 1991. The Seahawks went through a coaching change in 1992 bringing in Head Coach Tom Flores and Offensive Coordinator Larry Kennan. Out was the ‘Ground Chuck’ style offense, and in was a more West Coast oriented approach. While Williams saw less time rushing the ball, he still was an important part of the passing game, especially as the team was crumbling offensively due to lack of star power beyond Williams and Brian Blades. At quarterback the team struggled mightily with Dan McGwire, Rick Mirer, and Stan Gelbaugh all taking snaps.
John L. was mercifully allowed to depart via free agency in 1994 to the Pittsbugh Steelers and replaced the venerable Meril Hoge at fullback. There he enjoyed his final two seasons playing for the black and gold, culminating in his first and only SuperBowl appearance (SuperBowl XXX) at the conclusion of the 1995 season. He’d retire after the season citing the wear and tear on his body. His 546 receptions, was the second highest total recorded at the time, by a runnningback/ fullback, behind only Roger Craig. Over his career he earned two Pro Bowl nods for the 1990 and 1991 seasons.
Afterwards John L. returned back to his homestate of Florida. He owned a nightclub for a while then dabbled in coaching briefly with former teammate Kerwin Bell at the High School level. He’s also been named one of the Gator Greats and inducted into his Alma Mater’s HoF. He’s remembered well by the Seahawk faithful, and Williams in turn returned in 2008 to raise the 12th Man Flag in Seattle. Like many great players before him, I can only envision John L. in his Seahawk threads, and typically eschew his final days in Pittsburgh. Williams is featured in all 3 Tecmo Bowl games, oddly appearing as a tight end in the original release. In the future installments, he’s a popcorn back along the lines of Leroy Hoard.
G/Gs 149/133 Rush 1245 Yds 5006 Avg 4.0 Td 18 Lg 48 |
Rec 546 Yds 4656 Avg 8.5 Td 19 Lg 75t