First, congratulations on your 10 year anniversary! What were your first thoughts when the team contacted you to be a part of the celebration? Any reluctance? And how did they do so?
My first thought, this will be a great opportunity to see my old teammates that made this dream come true as a player to win a Super Bowl. No reluctance at all, I was excited about it. They contacted me through email.
Were you able to spend any time with the other guys before or after? What fun stories of your reunion can you share?
Actually, we spent more time together after the Saturday night dinner reception. We had a wonderful time talking about that season and what we had to go through to get to that final game. We did the things we did back in 2005, played dominos, cracked jokes on each other just like old times. Our families were with us that weekend, that really made it more special. Of course they all still had their small jokes for me being one of the shortest players back then. That didn’t change but it made us laugh.
What surprised you most about the guys you saw and spent time with?
Most of the guys lost weight, it appeared that most of them really took care of themselves. Normally when we get older and not as active, we as humans put on weight. My Super Bowl teammates looked Super.
I was not far from you actually in the stands and it looked like the Olympic athletes at times, with guys taking videos and pictures of the celebration. How did it feel for you to be back on the field? What was going through your mind on Sunday?
That adrenaline came back that whole time. My mind was like wow, I can’t believe I’m back on this field and the fans are cheering for us. It felt really good to step onto Hines Field again and to still feel loved by the fans.
You played with a number of HOF caliber players. Bettis, Ward, Roethlisberger, Polamalu… But there were a number of “unsung heroes” on that team. Tell us about yourself and some of those guys /and what readers should know about their contributions to that season.
For me, I was some what a players coach back then. I knew my time was coming to an end and I wanted to help my teammates out as much as possible to help win games to get to that Super Bowl. Ike Taylor was a big part of the team that year. That was his first year as a full time started and played very well that year. Ike went on to have a very successful career after Super Bowl XL. I’m very proud of him.
Speaking of some of those players like Troy and to a lesser extent, Ike. Sometimes the departure from the team is not so smooth. In those cases, like with Troy, is it a matter of time just needing to pass? How can those situations be handled better – on both sides?
I think the time needs to pass. Troy and the Steelers will one day come to a point to iron out any negative vibes that are between them. Troy laid his body on the line for a lot of years for the Steelers and I’m sure they recognized that. Troy is a great person, I’m sure he felt he had a couple more years left but that’s part of the business. At the end of the day I hope Troy will see that the relationships he built in the locker room can really be the determining factor that brings him back to Pittsburgh one day and be recognized as one of the best players that ever played for the Black and Gold.
Looking at the team and organization now, what has changed most about the organization and players since you played?
Well, the organization is still the same. The Rooney’s are still a family first organization and treat their coaches and players like family. As far as the game and the NFL, it has changed tremendously. The NFL has taken out the physicality of the game. I do understand that the NFL is trying to keep players healthy but you see more players getting injured this because of the lack of training camp, lack of training on the off-season and really taking the passion out of the game.
Looking at this year’s team, what are your thoughts on its ability to celebrate your reunion with another Super Bowl win?
It will feel different but I’m sure it will be fun. Players will have a different bond from each Super Bowl win.
Lastly,, thanks for taking the time again to interview with us. What’s next for Willie Williams?
I’m looking to land a coaching job with an NFL team or college team. I’ve completed my first coaching internship with the Arizona Cardinals during their summer training camp and looking to do another one for the 2016 season. Not sure what team yet but I just want the experience. I have a training facility here in Maryland which I really enjoy training high school athletes. I’ve been doing that for 8 years now and coaching at at the high school level.