Eric Williams, Steelers Safety, 1983-1986
First, can you let readers know what you are doing with yourself these days?
I work at an alternative school – crisis management school for kids from kindergarten through fifth grade. We help kids who have difficulties in school to get their behaviors under control so they can get back to the mainstream schools.
I work in construction as well, but it’s really slow right now.
How did you get started as a teacher?
I worked for fifteen years in construction, but the industry has gone down. A friend of mine who was a teacher thought I’d be good working with him as a teacher. I worked in Pittsburgh helping delinquent youth so I had some experience in doing that. I just started teaching last year.
When you were drafted by the Steelers in 1983, who helped take you under their wing, and how did they do so?
Dwayne Woodruff helped me a lot. He wasn’t there a long time but he was really helpful. Donnie Shell and Mel Blount helped too.
How did they help?
They were just good to sit down and talk to – to figure out how things work in the NFL.
Who were some of the toughest guys you lined up against in practice?
Stallworth was there. He was by far one of the toughest. He knew so much – he was such a smart receiver and knew how to avoid the jam at the line of scrimmage.
Louis Lipps was tough too. He was younger but he had talent – he had a lot of speed and quickness.
What did you think was your strongest asset as a player?
I was a ballhawk. I had good hands in college – I played receiver at first at N.C. State so I could catch the ball and knew how to go get it.
What was your biggest adjustment as a player?
Training camp was hard - you could never take a play off. Everyone’s after your job and it’s a year-round thing.
Remember, I came in as a sixth-round pick – there was no job security like a high-round pick or veteran may get.
How do you deal with that pressure?
You get an ulcer (laughing). Then you take medicine for the ulcer. But other than that you just have to deal with it. There’s no job security - one day you have a job and the next you don’t. In college, I had a scholarship and I was safe. In the NFL, your scholarship last twenty-four hours.
How did you and the rest of the team stay loose?
I don’t know how, honestly. It wasn’t loose for me. The veterans were funny – but I wasn’t close to many of them. I kept to myself and was quiet. I was a sixth-round pick, I just tried to stay out of everyone’s way.
But you made the team – and stayed there for three years.
I was at the right place at the right time. Pittsburgh was looking for defensive backs. They drafted three or four that year. In practice I got some interceptions and did in the preseason Hall of Fame game to.
Remember who you got that off of?
No! But until anyone can prove different, I’m saying it was a Hall of Fame quarterback (laughing).
So tell us about those three years – how were you able to contribute?
My first year I was on special teams. I only played three games then broke my foot on special teams against the Oilers. I was put on injured reserve for the rest of the year.
It actually helped me a bit. I was kind of thing so it helped me get time to gain some weight, I could practice by the end of the season too so that helped me get ready for the next year.
You started some that second year.
Rick Woods got hurt and I stepped in and started for the next couple of years yeah.
What happened in ’86 though? You’re starting, then all of the sudden you’re not on the team?
I started the last preseason game of the season. I went into the locker room and all my stuff was cleared out.
Like I said, you’re here one day, gone the next. There’s no security. They drafted Thomas Everett that year and had big plans for him, even though he was hurt and didn’t play much of the preseason. I think they wanted a more physical hitter. That wasn’t my kind of game so they went in a different direction.
I’d seen it with so many guys over my four years. I wasn’t devastated at that point.
So, what happened after that?
I went and played for Detroit for a year. After Detroit, like Chuck said, I found my life’s work.
Why’d you leave the game?
I had my fill of football. I’d seen guys get released and wait for teams to call them and run from one tryout to the next. I didn’t want to do that. I wasn’t going to wait around for calls. it just wasn’t fun anymore.
My agent called and said he got a couple calls from teams and wanted to know if I wanted to go to some tryouts. I said no. I was done. I was healthy. I got out at the right time.