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Williams: 'It was very intimidating'

Legends Series: Gerald Williams
Defensive Tackle

It's a dream many little boys that love football have, to one day play in the NFL. And to play for your favorite team, well that would just be the icing on the cake.

For former Steelers defensive tackle Gerald Williams, that dream became a reality when he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second round of the 1986 NFL Draft.

"It was odd because I've always liked the colors black and gold," said Williams. "I've always liked those colors. My very first car was a Camaro Z28 and it was black and gold. I've always liked that color combination, so I became a Steelers fan very young.

"Joe Greene, I just liked the way he played the game, and I liked the Steel Curtain defense. There were just so many things about the Steelers and the Steelers organization that was a lot like my personality, so easy to say that I could gravitate to being a fan."

Williams said that from the moment he was drafted by the Steelers, and up until today, he always took pride in wearing the black and gold and representing the organization.

"I can tell you about having a conversation with Joe Greene," said Williams. "I said to him that every day I put on the uniform I just felt like I was going out to have fun and play. It's a business of course, we all know that, and a lot of guys looked at it that way. But for me, it was just a joy to be able to play for the team that I loved idolizing from a distance when I was younger. So it was always just fun going out and playing."

Williams also weighed in on a variety of other topics in this exclusive interview:

What is your best memory from your playing career with the Steelers?
"That's always been a hard question to answer because there are so many fond memories. I'd say most of my fond memories came during the years when he had Coach (Bill) Cowher as our head coach. Of course, those were the years that we were winning division championships, we had Dom Capers as our defensive coordinator and we were leading the league in sacks. So those were probably the fondest memories."

What was it like to be part of the defense that the Steelers had, the "Blitzburgh" approach?"Those years were fun because we were the league-leading defense at the time. Every time we stepped on the field teams feared us because the type of defenses that we ran. You never knew where the blitzes were coming from, you didn't know who was going to bring the blitzes. They could be from a linebacker, they could be from a safety, or they could be from a corner. We had Rod Woodson, who was diversified in terms of being able to cover, being able to rush, and we just had so many talented players at that time it was exciting to be part of that defense."You also had some future Hall of Famers you were playing with. Is it neat looking back to see some of your former teammates become Hall of Famers?
"Yes, it's very exciting. I played with a lot of Hall of Famers, a lot of older Hall of Famers, a lot of younger Hall of Famers. It's exciting to see those guys going into the Hall now, but it's also a realization that you're getting older too."

Who had the biggest impact on your career?
"There were two. Chuck Noll and Joe Greene. Chuck because he is a consummate professional. As players, we knew where we stood with Chuck as far as what his expectations were for us. Joe was my position coach my third year on the team and from that point forward. It was just exciting to not only be around him, because he was the player that I idolized growing up because I also grew up as a Steelers fan. So I was very fortunate to not only play for the player that I idolized, but to play for the organization that I grew up loving."

Was it intimidating being coached by Joe Greene?
"It was very intimidating. I don't know if it was the great fortune or great misfortune, but in meetings I sat right near Joe in team meetings. I have always been the type of player that I want to make sure that I did whatever my coaches asked me to do, and I knew there would be mess-ups here and there and I hated sitting next to Joe when those mess-ups would come."

What was it like making the transition from being coached by Chuck Noll to being coached by Bill Cowher?
"The transition was different. The term 'players' coach' is loosely used in the arena of athletics. Chuck had more of a business approach to the game. He laid out what he expected of you as a player, those were the things you tried to give him as a player. Whereas Coach Cowher was a little more approachable, which gave him more of that 'players' coach' persona."

Looking back, do you consider yourself lucky to have gotten your start and to have been coached by Chuck Noll?
"I consider myself very lucky to have been coached by him. I grew up in a family setting, very similar to the way that I was coached by Chuck Noll. I also came from a college setting that was very similar to that, so it wasn't that different from me going from college to pro and having being coached by Coach Noll. I love Coach Cowher, but because I had spent so many years being coached the way Coach Noll coached us that I preferred that way initially."
Do you still follow the team?"I do. My brother and I are big Steelers fans. My brother is a long haul driver and we communicate with each other via text messages during the season."

Do you still take pride in the fact that you put that helmet on every Sunday?"I still have the pride knowing that I wore the black and gold for as long as I did. I keep up with the team, all the players. I'm the one that's on the couch on Sundays pulling for them. I even have had my phone break too when things don't go the way I would like for it to go."

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