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valleytexfan
08-06-2006, 12:12 PM
Anyone see it in this coming week's Sports Illustrated? It's an SI Extra story but here it is:


http://premium.si.cnn.com/pr/subs2/siexclusive/2006/pr/subs/siexclusive/07/31/williams0807/
By Michael Silver

Cut that meat! Cut that meat!

Alas, Peyton Manning isn't here to reprise his commercial catchphrase, but how cool would it be if the Indianapolis Colts All-Pro quarterback were with us now: dining on a pleasant summer night with a man being paid millions to get in Manning's grill. Clogging arteries, Brazilian style, with Mario Williams at Fogo de Chão, a trendy Houston churrascaria. Watching in gluttonous wonderment as chefs in white linen descend with sharp knives and giant sides of alcatra (top sirloin), fraldinha (bottom sirloin), costela de porco (pork ribs), frango (chicken) and cordeiro (leg of lamb). It's this last dish, hot and fresh, sliced off the bone, that inspires Williams, the 21-year-old quarterback terrorizer whom the Houston Texans made the No. 1 pick of the 2006 NFL draft, to yield to the restaurant's all-you-can-eat temptations, over and over.

So yes, in more polite terms, Williams keeps telling the cordeiro-toting chef to cut that meat, filling his 6'7", 294-pound frame like a guy who just got voted off Survivor. And though Manning isn't there to appreciate the feast, his presence is felt. For he, if you break it down, is the reason we're here. That Williams, a virtual unknown coming off his junior year at North Carolina State, is now property of the Texans -- rather than Reggie Bush, Vince Young or Matt Leinart, the Holy Trinity of draft-eligible college superstars -- is largely because of Manning's domination of his AFC South rivals. In their inglorious history the Texans have never defeated Indy, losing eight games by an average margin of 15.5 points.

"If all I was interested in was selling tickets, the first pick would have been Vince Young," Texans owner Bob McNair says of the Houston native who quarterbacked the Texas Longhorns to the 2005 national title. "And our fans would've been thrilled with Reggie Bush. But here's how I look at it: For us to get to the playoffs, we've got to beat Indy. The only way to beat Indy is to put pressure on Manning. If not, he's going to make you chopped liver. Well, Mario will put pressure on Peyton. Ask yourself, with Reggie Bush, would our offense be better than [the Colts'] offense? I'd say no, which means we've got to figure out how to get after Manning defensively."

If McNair and others in his organization seem a bit defensive, they have good reason. Seldom, if ever, has a decision on a No. 1 overall NFL pick been so disparaged. And we're not referring just to talking heads with dorky hairdos or agents with a stake in the outcome. As Houston announced its selection on April 29, both New York City's Radio City Music Hall, where Williams strode to the podium to be the first to shake hands with NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, and Reliant Stadium, where hundreds of Texans fans gathered on the club level to watch the proceedings, echoed with boos. At draft headquarters in Manhattan, the initial jeers were followed by chants of "overrated" -- surreal from Williams's perspective, considering that six months earlier he'd been a frustrated player on an underachieving team who didn't even consider himself a prospective No. 1.

"I'd have laughed if you'd told me I'd go first," Williams says as he gestures for more lamb. "Even at the end it was a shock. I know there's been a lot of talk that it was the wrong move, and I use it all as motivation. I think about that stuff all the time."

On his first day of work, Williams, like anybody thrust into an unfamiliar situation, made conversation by talking about the weather. Only this new employee, having just completed his first training camp practice at the Texans' facility across from Reliant Stadium last Friday, was discussing the stifling Houston heat and humidity with a horde of reporters more than 20 strong. Beads of sweat pouring off his forehead, a small blade of grass resting just below his left eye, Williams sounded like a man who'd grown up at the North Pole rather than in North Carolina. On a cloudy, 90° day with 59% humidity, Williams put up some staggering numbers: 12 mentions of the temperature in the first 13 questions. "And," he conceded at one point, "it's not even as hot as it's probably going to be."

Williams's challenge is to take the heat off the Texans' brass and attempt to justify his unlikely status. All he has to do is be very good, very quickly -- and, perhaps equally important, be better than Bush, who went No. 2 overall to the New Orleans Saints. Before being sidelined in June after surgery to remove the smashed nails on both big toes (he had recurring infections from being stepped on), Williams made his presence felt during Houston's off-season workouts and minicamps, routinely showing up at 5:30 a.m. and logging eight-hour days. On the practice field he impressed teammates and coaches with his instincts, ferocity and versatility. He'll have to do much more than that, starting now: The Texans, who are switching to a 4-3 defense, are loaded with speed and potential on the line; they view Williams as the player who can spur the transformation of a defense that ranked 31st in the NFL last season and blew six second-half leads. "He was knocking some guys into the backfield," said new Texans coach Gary Kubiak after watching Williams last Friday. "If you run the ball his way, there is a lot of havoc going on over there, a lot of guys going backwards, and that's what he's here for."

This being the 21st century, plenty of self-proclaimed experts have already decreed that Williams won't be up to the task, that he'll be the NFL's version of Sam Bowie, the player taken just before Michael Jordan in the 1984 NBA draft. The skeptics contend that Williams is a workout warrior who disappears for long stretches. They offer this criticism, of course, from the security of their cubicles and PDAs. "Nobody says anything to my face," notes Williams, spreading his massive arms, as if to add, Who'd want to mess with these? "Everyone I see is like, 'Congratulations.'"

This was especially true once the city of Houston's collective guilt kicked in. It began in early June at a fan-appreciation gathering in Reliant Stadium, where Williams got a 30-second standing ovation from thousands of season-ticket holders and sponsors after being introduced by Kubiak. Two nights later nearly 400 local business and community leaders, including Houston mayor Bill White, attended a reception at which Williams was presented with a white Stetson hat and a gavel. "I already see the sentiment changing," McNair said shortly after the reception. "We've had five people -- five, not five thousand -- who actually canceled their season tickets after the draft. I tell everyone else, 'When you see Mario play, you'll understand.'"

That formality hasn't stopped two traditionally active groups of supporters -- distant relatives and prospective romantic interests -- from jumping on the bandwagon (or gravy train, depending upon one's perspective). "I knew the family tree," says Williams's mother, Mary, "but now it's like, Who did you say you were?" As for his growing legion of female admirers, Mario says he can no longer navigate smoothly through the online social networks MySpace andFacebook without receiving offers of "like everything, whatever, wherever. It's crazy."

Odds are Williams will make a woman very happy someday, what with the clean-freak sensibilities first noticed by his mother. "I'd come home from work and he'd be vacuuming the house," she says. "That probably started when he was eight." Last year Williams was housemates with N.C. State defensive tackle John McCargo, selected 26th overall by the Buffalo Bills. "Mario wants everything spotless," McCargo says. "If there was an unwashed dish in the sink or a piece of paper on the floor, he'd be crying like a little girl. It got so bad at one point that he wouldn't use the kitchen; he started throwing away dishes that had been in the sink for too long."

In March 2003 Williams considered discarding his football dreams. Two months after he'd arrived in Raleigh -- having graduated a semester early from Richlands (N.C.) High -- Williams was called into coach Chuck Amato's office after spring practice for some awful news: Williams's brother-in-law, Marine Sgt. Nicolas Hodson, had been killed in a Humvee accident in Iraq four days into the war. Mario's older sister, Michelon Hodson, was left widowed with a 15-month-old son, Marius; she was five months pregnant with a second son, whom she would name Nicolas.

On the two-hour drive back to rural Richlands (pop. 928), the college freshman whose childhood nickname was Buddha thought hard about the tragedy. When he got to his grandmother's house he told his grieving sister that he would quit football and get a job to help support her and the children; she told him to stay in school and that she'd find a way to make it work.

Williams returned to N.C. State and thrived. He earned a starting defensive-end job as a freshman and was named All-ACC as a sophomore. Midway through his junior season, however, he and his team were foundering. He had just one sack and was not in the starting lineup for an Oct. 22 game against Wake Forest. Williams responded by coming off the bench to make three sacks and 3 1/2 tackles for loss against the Demon Deacons. He finished the '05 season with 14 sacks and 27 1/2 tackles for loss. Though Williams insists he "played the same way all year," Kubiak concedes that "there were people who said he didn't play at the same speed all the time. It's our job as coaches to make sure he does."

The Wolfpack, after losing to Wake to fall to 2-4, won five of its final six games, the last a 14-0 shutout of South Florida in the Meineke Car Care Bowl on New Year's Eve. The next day the Texans fell in overtime to the San Francisco 49ers, dropping to a league-worst 2-14 in a regular-season finale dubbed the Bush Bowl, so certain was the USC running back's status as the top overall pick. Young's heroics in the BCS title against USC made him a potential threat to usurp Bush, but even after Williams's impressive showing at the February scouting combine (4.70 in the 40-yard dash, 35 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press, a 40 1/2-inch vertical leap), few considered him a possible No. 1. When he visited Houston on April 10, it was widely viewed as a ploy by the Texans to force Bush's asking price down. The team later began discussing contract terms with agents for both players.

Then, two nights before the draft, Williams was visiting a New York City children's hospital with Bush and other top prospects when his cellphone lit up with a message from his agent, Ben Dogra: We've got to talk. "I knew something was up," Williams recalls. "It sounded like something really bad." It wasn't. Williams was about to join Bruce Smith (1985) and Courtney Brown (2000) as the only defensive ends taken first overall in the last 30 years.

It's not completely clear what role, if any, finances played in the Texans' decision. According to two sources familiar with the negotiations, Bush's agent, Joel Segal, had agreed in principle to a six-year, $54 million total package but was asking for $30 million as a signing bonus; Williams, by contrast, accepted a similar overall deal with $26.5 million in guaranteed money. There was also the late-breaking report by Yahoo Sports that Bush's family had lived in a home owned by a man with ties to a sports-marketing company. Charley Casserly, who resigned as the Texans' general manager shortly after the draft, insists that the team's choice of Williams was strictly a football decision. "In a normal year, if only one of them was there, it wouldn't have even been a decision -- either guy would have been an obvious Number 1," Casserly says. "There was no question in my mind we could have signed Reggie Bush if we'd chosen to draft him. But with the switch to the 4-3, Gary Kubiak and I both decided Mario was the best fit for our team."

For all the pressure Williams faces by virtue of his draft position -- no matter how good he is, will Bush or Young be better? -- his mandate is a blessedly simple one: Get to the quarterback. If he does that, everything will fall into place. Or, as a man who approaches his table at Fogo de Chão puts it, "I hope you get lots of sacks, and I hope you kick butt this year." After asking Williams to pose for a photo, the balding fan with the gray goatee adds, "I know you will. Congratulations, and welcome to the Texans."

Having finally shooed away the last of the meat-slicing chefs, Williams stares at a dessert menu with accompanying drink selections. The Louis XIII cognac stops him, and he summons the waiter and asks, "Two hundred and thirty dollars? Is that for the whole bottle?" No, the waiter answers, that's the price of a single shot. Williams shakes his head in wonderment. The waiter, who by now has figured out he has a celebrity in the house, asks Williams if he'd like a "little taste." Williams nods eagerly, and a minute later he is brought a shot glass filled nearly to the top. Williams smiles. So this is how the game is played.

He finishes the drink in two sips and gives a thumbs-up. But wait -- the play is under review. Williams's eyes begin to water, and he has trouble getting his words out. "Man," he says, gasping, "it's like there's a fire inside me. Whoo-hooo, I need to go home and lay down."

Sure thing, but for the record, it was good, right? "Yeah," he whispers, still struggling for air. "But at that price, it better be."

A whole lot of Texans fans know exactly how he feels.

Issue date: August 7, 2006

tulexan
08-06-2006, 01:04 PM
Fogo de Chao. Good choice Mario.

Texan Asylum
08-06-2006, 01:31 PM
I am genuinely PROUD to say that I am so glad we passed on Bush and Young to get Mario. Everytime I read something about him, I fill with a sense of pride and admiration for this man. I feel he is going to be the core of our defensive unit for a very long time.

Thanks McNair and Co for picking the ULTIMATE choice, and choices, for our New Texans!

And thanks valleytexfan for the great post.

Hulk75
08-06-2006, 01:52 PM
"If all I was interested in was selling tickets, the first pick would have been Vince Young," Texans owner Bob McNair says

This struck me funny.lol:

aj.
08-06-2006, 01:57 PM
Nice full page photo of Mario in the paper version page 58 (the one with Joe Mauer on the cover). There's also a few other photos that accompany the article - like one of Texans fans booing him at the draft party at Reliant.

Not bad for a kid from Richlands, NC who has talked about growing up on "mayonnaise and butter sandwiches." Now he's eating sliced alcatra at Fogo...and sipping Louis XIII. Prove you were worth it Mario.

There's also a real good article about Johnny U in the same issue.

rittenhouserobz
08-06-2006, 02:42 PM
Mario is an excellent choice. When the Texans look back on this pick 3 years from now I hope they see the wisdom in this pick.

Marcus
08-06-2006, 03:07 PM
"If all I was interested in was selling tickets, the first pick would have been Vince Young," Texans owner Bob McNair says

This struck me funny.lol:

It was a slap in the face to all the fans that thought Bob slapped them in their face.

I loved it.:thumbup

texanfan2100
08-06-2006, 03:23 PM
According to two sources familiar with the negotiations, Bush's agent, Joel Segal, had agreed in principle to a six-year, $54 million total package but was asking for $30 million as a signing bonus; Williams, by contrast, accepted a similar overall deal with $26.5 million in guaranteed money.

I don't know if this had been out there in the mainstream media, but I hadn't read it. It seems like Bush priced himself out of the #1 pick, which I think most people thought was the case all along.

valleytexfan
08-06-2006, 04:18 PM
I am genuinely PROUD to say that I am so glad we passed on Bush and Young to get Mario. Everytime I read something about him, I fill with a sense of pride and admiration for this man. I feel he is going to be the core of our defensive unit for a very long time.

Thanks McNair and Co for picking the ULTIMATE choice, and choices, for our New Texans!

And thanks valleytexfan for the great post.

No prob guys...just a fellow Texan fan spreading the word!:texflag:

valleytexfan
08-06-2006, 07:38 PM
:yahoo:

DocBar
08-06-2006, 08:14 PM
Here's to Mario becoming the 3rd DE to earn the SB MVP!!!!!:francis:
And 1st to win it multiple times!!!!

valleytexfan
08-06-2006, 08:41 PM
here, here!!:highfive: :shots:

Mr. White
08-07-2006, 09:59 AM
"If all I was interested in was selling tickets, the first pick would have been Vince Young," Texans owner Bob McNair says of the Houston native who quarterbacked the Texas Longhorns to the 2005 national title. "And our fans would've been thrilled with Reggie Bush. But here's how I look at it: For us to get to the playoffs, we've got to beat Indy. The only way to beat Indy is to put pressure on Manning. If not, he's going to make you chopped liver. Well, Mario will put pressure on Peyton. Ask yourself, with Reggie Bush, would our offense be better than [the Colts'] offense? I'd say no, which means we've got to figure out how to get after Manning defensively."


I think this was the most important quote in the article.

First things first....beat the top dog in the division.

phantom17
08-07-2006, 10:21 AM
Thanks fellow....valleytexfan! Thanks for the great read! Keep up the great posts! I hope more RGV Texans fans post here MORE!!!:cowboy1:

valleytexfan
08-07-2006, 02:10 PM
Me too! I wish I could contact more of us!!! Hopefully we can get some Texan fans together down here...:gathering:

valleytexfan
08-07-2006, 10:21 PM
:superman: