Cadillac Williams can visit his shoes when he makes his first trip to the Pro Football Hall of Fame
Cadillac Williams will have to break in a new pair of cleats on Sunday against the Detroit Lions. We know what you're thinking – no, he didn't wear the last pair out. Williams' shoes have simply answered a higher calling.
It was, to be specific, the Pro Football Hall of Fame that came calling this week. Williams made history on Sunday in Green Bay's Lambeau Field by galloping for 158 yards against the Packers, giving him 434 rushing yards on the season. That is the most rushing yards any player has gained in his first three career games in the 86-year history of the National Football League, breaking the 50-year-old record of 410, set by Baltimore's Dan Ameche.
Williams is also the first player in league annals to open his career with three consecutive 100-yard games. In honor of those incredible feats, his shoes and gloves have made the trek to Canton, Ohio and will be on permanent display in the Hall. The mementos were officially placed on exhibit on Thursday.
It's a great honor," said Williams. "I never thought that could possibly happen. It's a great feeling. But it's still early. This is a long season and it doesn't stop here. I know as a player I can't be complacent, and I know that without those guys up front this wouldn't be possible at all."
Williams will have to try to extend his streak in a new pair of kicks, but that's no problem. He laces up a fresh pair every game anyway.
There are only two former Tampa Bay players in the Hall of Fame, and only one who spent the majority of his career with the Buccaneers. Defensive end Lee Roy Selmon, the Bucs' all-time sack leader, was inducted in 1995. Quarterback Steve Young, a Buccaneer from 1985-86 who later built his Hall credentials with the San Francisco 49ers, was inducted this past year.
However, there are several other pieces of Buccaneer memorabilia in Canton to keep Williams' shoes company.
Among the other Buc-related items is a game ball awarded to Selmon in 1978 after he sacked Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton three times in Tampa Bay's 16-10 win over Minnesota. More recently, the coin used for the coin toss at Super Bowl XXXVII, which the Bucs won, 48-21, over Oakland, was taken to the Hall of Fame. Other items include a detachable hand warmer developed by former Bucs equipment manager Frank Pupello and the helmet worn by quarterback Doug Williams in 1979, which featured a custom-made facemask to protect Williams' broken jaw.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame, which opened in Canton in 1963, houses the largest collection on the sport in the world.
Now a part of league history, Williams keeps making news in the present day, as well. On Thursday, he closed in on another award for his already cluttered mantle. It appears that, for the third time in as many weeks, he will be named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Week, an award determined each week by fan voting between five candidates chosen by the league.
Given that run, it came as little surprise when Williams was also feted as the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month on Thursday.
Williams is the fourth Buccaneer to win this particular award, though the title has changed slightly since fullback Mike Alstott first took the honor in 1996. Alstott was the NFC Offensive Rookie of the Month that November, and Bucs running back Warrick Dunn won the same award the following September. Tampa Bay quarterback Shaun King was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month in December of 1999.
Also in 1996, Bucs wide receiver Karl Williams was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Month in December.
Williams' September accomplishments are outlined above. He has averaged 4.9 yards per tote so far and is the NFL's leader with 88 carries overall. Williams leads the league in rushing, has scored two touchdowns, owns the longest rush by any player so far (a 71-yard touchdown at Minnesota) and has led the Bucs to their first 3-0 record since 2000.
His most recent effort against the Packers was the highest single-game rushing total by any player this season. That helped him run away with his third straight rookie of the week award, as he easily defeated Miami running back Ronnie Brown (Williams' teammate at Auburn), Minnesota wide receiver Troy Williamson, Seattle linebacker Leroy Hill and Dallas defensive end DeMarcus Ware.
After narrowly defeating Cincinnati linebacker Odell Thurman (the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month, by the way) in the first-week rookie voting, Williams got half of the votes in Week Two and two-thirds of them this week, through Thursday afternoon. At the end of the season, fans will have the opportunity to vote for NFL Rookie of the Year, and Williams is obviously the early leader.
The way things are going, he may have no room on his mantle for another award by then. It's all happened very fast for the soft-spoken rookie.
"To be honest with you, I haven't had a chance to let everything soak in," he said. "The rookie [awards], the Hall of Fame – it just hasn't hit me yet because I've only ever played three games."