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Part 1: Williams, Casserly talk '06 draft


Before last year's NFL Draft, defensive end Mario Williams sat down with former Texans general manager Charley Casserly to discuss their once criticized, but now hailed 2006 draft experiences when Williams was selected as the No. 1 pick over running back Reggie Bush and quarterback Vince Young.

Below is a transcript from the first segment of the three-part interview.

Charley Casserly: Let's go back. Two years ago, we are in draft meetings about the defensive side of the ball, and you are our top-rated player. So I say to our operations man, "Let's get Mario's agent on the phone and let's get Mario in for a visit." So about a half an hour later, the operations man comes back and say, "He's not coming." I said, "What do you mean, he's not coming?" He says, "He's already booked for next week." So I say, "Wait a minute. We have the first pick in the draft. This isn't complicated. If we want to take him, he comes." So he says, "You better talk to him." So I get (agent) Ben (Dogra) on the phone and Ben is fighting me, saying: "You're not serious." I say, "We are serious." Finally, he shuffles things around and gets to you and you are going to come in. Now, when you first get the call from Ben that Houston wants you to come for a visit, what were your thoughts?

Mario Williams: Well, I wasn't thinking "is this serious" or "isn't this serious." I was just thinking that it's a chance. So I told Ben, "I will definitely do it. If they want me to come in, I will come in. It's not going to hurt anything." After I told him that, I was down for it and ready to go.

Charley Casserly: That flight, as I remember this thing, we didn't exactly send a 747 for you, right?

Mario Williams: No, you didn't. Actually, something happened. I think there was a miscommunication with the time of the flight. I actually missed the first one, coming here. I think either Ben or Mark gave me the wrong time. So, then, I was on one of those original jets, a one-two. It was kind of shaky right then, but I had a lot of hope. I still believed, and then I came out here and whatever happened, happened.

Charley Casserly: We are at the week of the draft now; we are negotiating with you, your agent and Reggie Bush's agent. Now, originally, Ben still didn't believe we were going to take you. He doesn't want to start the negotiation. He doesn't want to be used. So I get on the phone and convince him that he's not going to be used and that we are serious about this. So now, we are a couple of days before the draft, or maybe Monday or Tuesday before the draft, and maybe negotiations are beginning to move along. At what point during that week did it hit you or did you realize that this was going to happen?

Mario Williams: I think from the first initial meeting when you guys asked me to come here, I think that I knew it was all up in the air. Obviously, I didn't know what was going on and I wasn't going to be the one to sit here and say, "I'm going here or going there." I was just relaxed and waiting until the moment that it was actually announced. Really, it didn't hit until that Friday or whenever it (the deal) was done. I wasn't going to sit here and think I was going here or there.

{QUOTE}Charley Casserly: We got to Saturday. We have the announcement with commissioner Paul Tagliabue: "The Texans select Mario Williams with the first pick in the draft." You are up there with the jersey and picture, etcetera. There was a mixed reaction from the New York crowd. What are your thoughts at that point in time?

Mario Williams: At that point in time, being selected by the Texans was phenomenal for me. Nothing was going to take that away. I wasn't going to sit here and worry about people saying this or having comments. That stuff never really mattered to me. I just knew what I had to do and I knew that after I was selected by you and the Texans, I pretty much had a straight line for what I needed to do. I knew where I was going and what my destination was and I knew what I needed to do to try to help the team out to get better.

Charley Casserly: We had a firestorm in Houston. People had thought we had lost our minds. I'll tell you a story. I remember when Donovan McNabb got drafted in Philadelphia. The fans wanted Ricky Williams. They booed Donovan McNabb. I was going to solve this problem. I couldn't effect the way people reacted to you, so I said, "React to me." So I go on television and I look the camera in the eye and said, "Hey, you want to boo somebody, boo me." Well, they took it literally because they booed me. But seriously, from your point of view, there was criticism. People wanted the hometown hero, Vince Young. People wanted Reggie Bush. Now, you come to Houston. The dream of your life is to be in the NFL – maybe you dreamed to be the first pick in the draft, maybe you didn't. But you are the first pick in the draft and you are in the NFL, which is what you wanted to be in. Now, there's even more criticism. How do you feel at that point? How did you deal with that?

Mario Williams: I look at it like everybody is going to want somebody different. It's one of those things where when I was growing up, I would never ever judge anybody, anything, before anything happens. And past experiences don't add up to me. Whatever I did last year or the year before that, that doesn't matter this year. Even now, with what I did last year, I don't remember that any more. It's pretty much like that wasn't good enough. I know that, and I know that I need to get better. Everybody's response, everybody's criticism, me personally, I would never do anything like that because I think it's ignorant. I mean, I'm not going to sit here and say so-and-so is a better player just from my assumptions, and half of the people who say that probably have never even played football. If they did, they probably never got this far. So when people say stuff like that about me or another player or somebody else who is drafted this year, I would say, "Don't even listen to that because it makes no sense to me. It makes no sense to say, 'That person is going to be good and that person is not.'" The way this day and age is going, somebody was telling me this the other day, nobody ever expects their kids to grow up and do the crazy things that they do, like be on drugs. They always say they are going to be great. You can't judge somebody before anything ever happens; you never know what the outcome is going to be. So I wouldn't sit here and try and point fingers at someone and say, "We should have done this or we should have done that," especially if you have never been in that situation before in your life. That's how a lot of people are. They will sit here and judge something when they haven't even done it themselves.

Charley Casserly: We are in your rookie year and coach (Gary) Kubiak is telling me that you are injured and you can't practice, but aren't missing a game and playing every snap. He talks to me about how much he admires what you are going through and the pain you are going through, but you are showing up every week and trying to be a pro about it and you are learning the pro game at the same time. And I read it and I listened to it: "He's not doing a good job. He's not worth the first pick. He's going to be a bust." There were a lot of negative comments there. Is there anybody who gave you advice during that period of time? Is there someone who said something that sticks in your mind about getting through the tough times there?

Mario Williams: I would say my family. My mother helped me out a lot with that. When all that stuff was going on, people were saying what they wanted to say about the situation. I knew in my situation with my foot injury, that and not being able to practice was setting me back. I knew that the only thing that mattered was the team. The only thing that mattered was my coaches. The only thing that mattered was the people who got me here and the players that I was on the field with, sweating every day and just trying to play the game even though I couldn't practice – and all the things I had to go through dealing with that, the stress. The whole defensive line was always there for me. From meetings to the game itself, I had players all across the board – N.D. Kalu, Anthony Weaver, Travis Johnson, Anthony Maddox – just everybody was always on me trying to push me, telling me that I could get through it.

Charley Casserly: The players helped you; your family helped you. Did anybody – OK, I'll give you a story because people were trying to encourage me during that time. I wasn't even playing here; I wasn't even here. Did anybody point to a player and say, "As a rookie, this guy went through this trying time and then after that rookie year, he took off?" Did anybody mention a player to you like that?

Mario Williams: Yeah, it was Bruce Smith, actually. Everybody talked about how he came in as the top pick and the best at his position and his first year they said he was overweight and he didn't live up to the name, and then he came back his second year and took off.

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