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The Rise and Fall and Rise of Mike Williams

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Wide Receiver Mike Williams went from Rose Bowl hero to nobody in four years. Now, he's back fit and off to a promising start with the Seattle Seahawks.

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It was a touchdown catch Mike Williams will probably never forget.

It was the 2004 Rose Bowl and the USC Trojans were beating the Michigan Wolverines, 21-7, with just under four minutes left in the third quarter. Williams set up wide out on the right and after Matt Leinert took the snap under center for USC and made a halfback pitch, Williams came back around to receive the ball.

A textbook Pete Carroll play for the Trojans at the time - it was enough to make the rest of the Pac-10 cringe somewhere between often and a lot during Williams' two seasons at USC. Michigan didn't care for it either.

With a smooth lefty loft, Williams hit a streaking Leinert open up field for a touchdown catch in a dominating win over the Wolverines.

(Here's video of the play courtesy of Youtube user Walter541.)

Now six years later, Williams is reunited with Carroll in Seattle and is hoping to make some memorable receptions this year for the Seahawks. But what will Williams truly make of this second chance - or fourth chance - at a first impression?

For the past two seasons, Williams has been out of the NFL and at a point of no return as he tried to process where he's been and where he wants to go. The former 10th overall pick that lasted just three unproductive seasons playing for the Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans, Mike experienced the ups and downs of the NFL in the blink of an eye. And it came to a point where he had a choice to make: Williams could either carry the cross of being a franchise savior turned bust in Detroit, or admit he was broken and needed to be fixed.

And that is really where the road back to football began for Williams. Recovery happens on a daily basis. That goes for life on the field and life off the field. It's a little something Williams learned by rising and falling in this league.

Back when Williams prepared to enter the NFL, his goal was to weigh in at 228 pounds and refine his overall game - from his receiving skills, to running daily routes, to trying to catch a hundred footballs a day being shot out of a jugs machine. But when Carroll and Williams saw each other last November and Mike shared his story about wanting to return to the NFL, there was still the lingering "weight concern". Before his release from the Titans and Williams' time away from the game, word was Mike was tipping the scales around 270 pounds.

Life had to change for Williams.

Each day he made the change towards a true shot at redemption which - and thanks to a strong relationship with Coach Carroll and the prompt departure of T.J. Houshmandzadeh to the Baltimore Ravens  - is steadily beginning to take shape in Seattle.

One game at a time. One day at a time.

Today, the 6-foot-5 and 235 pound Williams is back.

Despite Williams nursing a thigh injury that limited his practicing on Wednesday, it apparently isn't a cause for a lot of concern. The Seahawks' wide receiver is ready for an encore this weekend with Seattle traveling to take on the Denver Broncos on Sunday.  In his first game as an opening-day starter, Williams went for 64 yards on four receptions in Seattle's win last week over the San Francisco 49ers.

So much for the player that nobody wanted.

It was the first time Williams had taken the field in the NFL in a regular season game since early December back in 2007, and that's when the past caught up with him. During preseason games, Mike saw limited action and caught 10 passes for more than 17 yards per catch. Those numbers bring back his time in Detroit, Oakland and Tennessee (44 receptions in three NFL seasons) and tell a story Williams knows all too well.

He lived it.

But that doesn't mean Williams has to re-live it.

"Every day is a new day. Every day is an audition all over for me," Williams recently told, with honesty holding weight with each word.

Now Mike Williams is in Seattle trying to make some new memories.


For more from Wendell Maxey, visit Beyond The Beat.