I’ve always been a fan of Carolina Panthers All-Time Leading Rusher DeAngelo Williams. He played college ball at a school in the same conference of my alma-mater, so I had a good look at him early. He wasn’t the biggest guy coming out of college, causing many to wonder about his skill-set translating to the pro game, but I saw the promise as he carved up my ECU Pirates. He ultimately proved the skeptics wrong by bulking up and developing better power running game than expected, all while maintaining that explosive threat to take it to the house at any moment.
A fan favorite, Williams had a great career in Carolina. He was engaging, a little quirky, and we have gotten to know him intimately through the story of his mother, Sandra Hill, who recently passed after a long battle with breast cancer.
Late in his career, we started to see that Williams wasn’t just sentimental, but a little sensitive, however. He seemed disengaged his last year in Carolina. It was understandable given the emotional circumstances of 2014. No one expected Williams to put on the fake smile for the media or to go unaffected by the hurdles he faced last season. As he distanced himself from the fan base somewhat at the end, it became clear the wounds were deeper than someone from the outside looking in could truly understand.
Panthers General Manager noted that “DeAngelo had a tough season. He lost his mom, who he was very close to. Then came the season and he just couldn't stay healthy. It was really hard for him.”
Williams, who has shown a sensitivity to criticism in the past when noting his dislike of former offensive coordinator Rod Chudzinski, bantering with a critical Charlotte sportswriter, and demonstrating an unhappiness with the Carolina Panthers observation of his mother’s passing and funeral, once again showed he holds on to criticism. The doubters, and there were many during his stint in Carolina, he showed had a real effect on his outlook. It was particularly apparent when he took a somewhat random dig at Laurence Maroney, a running back drafted ahead of him in 2006 who is no longer in the league.
In so many ways, Williams’s comments matter little. I can’t myself deny being sensitive to criticism or bothered by those who fail to appreciate the work and talent I put into various aspects of my career and life, so why shouldn’t Williams. He shouldn’t. It’s understandable, and I think we can all relate on some level to the emotion surrounding one’s self-confidence and drive for accomplishment.
On the hand, while the motivation from such perceived slights is understandable, I’m a little stunned that Williams held onto this as long as he did given the success he had in comparison to Maroney. Sure, Maroney had a meager career punctuated most by minor dust-ups with the law and questions surrounding his sexual orientation, but it’s not clear how his lack of success was ultimately connected to Williams ability.
Was Williams so slighted that he wasn’t the #2 running back in taken in the draft?
Why though does Williams find the New England Patriots drafting of the former Minnesota Golden Gopher so motivating, or in more direct terms, insulting? Is Williams searching deep for motivation to catch a second wind with a second team, or is he so slighted that he wasn’t viewed as the top running back of his class, second only to Reggie Busch? Does this have to do with some frustration of a nice guys finish last mentality? Perhaps what we want to ask least, is Williams ultimately disappointed that he wasn’t drafted by the New England Patriots instead?
It looked that Williams’s parting with the Panthers was going to be amiable. Gettleman handled the life-long Panther and the difficulties surrounding his final season in Carolina much more delicately than he did with Jordan Gross or Steve Smith. Allowing Williams to control the announcement of the end of his time in Carolina, the situation soured more than expected, as Williams conveyed in an exclusive news interview how hurt he was by the Panthers lack of support during the time of his mother’s passing.
What we’ve recognize from this is that there is an emotional component to the business. We all knew it all along, but it's something that easily gets lost among the stats, the hype, the expectations, and our own desire for personal satisfactions. Maybe though, Williams isn’t being any more sensitive about this matter than I would be. After peeking at Laurence Maroney’s personal introduction video on his website (give it a moment to load), it may not be so petty that Williams still holds on to this 2006 miscalculation by the New England Patriots.
By the Professor, aka Tony Dunn
Follow him on Twitter @Cat_Chronicles