Skip to main content

Mario stays focused


Defensive end Mario Williams is taking his game to a new level in 2008 thanks in part to chemistry he has developed with his teammates on the defensive line.

Defensive line coach Jethro Franklin watched Mario Williams' first two seasons in the NFL with pain and pride. First, it was the pain. Now, it's the pride.

"Part of this profession is being able to make players better," Franklin said. "When you can visually see that happen, it's like watching your kid taking his first steps. So, yes, there's a lot of gratification there."

The joy of seeing Williams emerge last season as a force on the Texans' defense gave Franklin and senior defensive assistant Frank Bush an I-told-you-so satisfaction.

"He's like that old saying, 'That which does not kill me will make me stronger,'" Franklin said. "The adversity he went through has definitely made him a stronger person and a better player. He wants to be a better player. He wants to be a great player."

{QUOTE}After undergoing major scrutiny as a rookie first-overall draft pick, Williams returned healthy and wowed fans with 14 sacks last season and came within a hair of earning a Pro Bowl trip.

In his third season, Williams sees himself as just one of the guys instead of the face of the franchise.

"I'm not trying to do anything but play ball," he said. "I mean, I'm just trying to get better. And, being that the defensive line are the guys I'm always with, I'm just trying to push them and they're trying to push me. I really don't hoot and holler too much. I just play ball.

"I don't celebrate too much."

Everyone got satisfaction with Williams' 2007 performance, especially owner Bob McNair.

"I'm excited because people haven't given him the recognition he's due and he's been terrific," McNair said. "He's a terrific player. He's been a terrific player. One person can't do it by himself."

That's basically what fans expected of Williams in his rookie season when the Texans chose him over hometown favorite Vince Young. It's all past history for Williams and his supportive teammates.

"I mean, he's got more tools, he's got more teammates to help," McNair said of Williams. "You get a chance more to see his talent, and it's more obvious to everyone. He has separated himself. There are only two or three people who can play at the level he plays."

Williams has a standard comment about the unfair expectations placed on him since his rookie season.

"I really don't care," he said. "I mean, really, it's a good thing, but the most important thing to me is (what happens in) this facility and that's all that really matters right now. I don't have anything to prove to nobody except my teammates. As long as I know my guys are behind me and I'm behind my guys, that's all that matters."

Franklin sees Williams' desire to prove himself.

"He went through that (rookie) year," Franklin said. "He didn't have the success early. He wants it more than any fan, any coach. When you see him go through that and then have a little bit of success, I feel great for him."

Still, the Texans believe they haven't seen the best of Mario.

"I know that he's steadily improved each year and this is another year to prove to himself," Franklin said. "That's what he's competing against more than anything is himself.

"When you coach guys of that mentality, it's a lot easier. Going into his third year, there's still a lot out there for him to accomplish. He has his goals."

Bush thinks rookie tackle Duane Brown, the team's No. 1 pick, will benefit from lining up against Williams.

"Both are talented athletes," Bush said. "Mario has some experience that's going to help him and as Mario matures and starts to learn different things, Brown's athletic ability is going to help Mario. So it's a good situation, very competitive."

Bush has worked with Franklin to help Williams grow into his position.

"He's maturing, he's learning more football," Bush said. "He's really learning how we like to do things and taking some leadership. It's rewarding to watch him work. It's somewhat expected because he is a talented player."

Bush suffered with Williams through his early trials.

"He had a lot of different things tugging at him his rookie year," Bush said. "Last year, he kind of got rid of some of those things and hopefully this year there will be even less tugging at him and he can concentrate on more football. I'm looking forward to it."

Williams is looking for a close-knit defensive unit this season.

"I'm excited," he said. "I'm pretty much, though, just taking things one step at a time and just trying to get better. I'm out here running around with the guys and, you know, becoming one with the D-line, the safeties, one with the defense, just do what we've got to do."

EDITOR'S NOTE: *Michael A. Lutz worked for The Associated Press for 38 years covering news and sports in Louisville, Ky. Dallas and Houston. Most of that time was spent in Houston covering the Oilers, Astros, Texans and other college and pro sports. *

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content