Twelve years ago, Reggie Williams walked into his parents’ house one final time an extraordinary dreamer — and left essentially a multi-millionaire.
That is what the NFL Draft can do. It changes lives forever.
Williams starred wherever he played football — first at Lakes High School, then becoming a consensus first-team All-American receiver at the University of Washington.
At 6-foot-4, 223 pounds, he was big, fast and physical — all the measureables NFL teams want at the position.
And in late April, the receiver-starved Jacksonville Jaguars selected Williams with the ninth overall selection of the 2004 NFL Draft.
Williams became the second Pierce County product to ever be a top-10 selection. Mount Tahoma receiver Bobby Moore was selected No. 4 overall by St. Louis in 1972 as the highest draft pick in South Sound history.
“It’s kind of crazy when you think about the time frame — 12 years ago,” said Williams by telephone Tuesday night from his home in Houston.
“I remember it like it was yesterday.”
By the time that NFL Draft was a week away, Williams had finished most of his pre-draft preparation.
Williams became the second Pierce County product to ever be a top-10 selection.
He had visited three organizations. One was the Jaguars.
Workouts in Houston had been throttled down.
Finally, he flew back to Seattle mid-week and settled in Lakewood to share the NFL Draft experience with his family.
But first came the last important decision — picking a draft-day outfit.
“I had been thinking about that since high school,” Williams said. “I have always been into fashion and stuff.”
Three high-end suits were sent to his parents’ house. He chose a cream-colored jacket and slacks with aqua-colored pinstripes.
“He was always styling like that,” Lakes football coach Dave Miller said. “At prom, he wore a top hat. He had flair for the unusual.”
That last week, Williams tried to ignore the outside noise. Houston-based agent Carl Poston III kept him abreast of pre-draft developments and what first-round slot he’d likely go.
“What was going to be was going to be,” Williams said. “You never really, really know unless you are the No. 1 guy.”
Back then, the NFL Draft was held over the weekend — Saturday and Sunday. The night before, Williams and a few friends stayed the night at a waterfront hotel in Bellevue, then took a limousine to his parents’ house Saturday morning.
“We got there right before the draft started,” Williams said. “I did not see any of the pre-draft stuff on television. I literally walked in, got dressed and sat down when the first pick was starting.”
When quarterback Eli Manning was selected with the top overall pick, Williams said he felt a tingling.
“I was sitting on the couch between my brother (Derrick), and my parents (Reggie Sr. and Wanda),” Williams said. “I was a little nervous. I had to make sure my phone was charged, and my line was open. Also, my parents had their phone lines open. And a guy who worked for my agent was also there, and his line was ready, too.”
Williams’ phone rang between five and 10 times over the next 45 minutes. They were all false-alarm phone calls from friends.
What was going to be was going to be. You never really, really know unless you are the No. 1 guy.
With all that was going on in the house, Williams said he glanced over most at his mother, who sat studiously watching the television coverage.
“No question, she was the most nervous,” Williams said. “She was really, really quiet. I mean, she knows football. And she knew about the NFL Draft. And even though she was talking to people, she was in her own zone.”
A final phone call came in when the Atlanta Falcons were on the clock. It was a call that put Williams in what he described as a “matrix” state of surrealism.
On the line was Jaguars vice president of player personnel James Harris. Williams immediately walked out to the backyard.
“He introduced himself, and asked, ‘How would you like to be a Jaguar, Reggie?’ ” Williams said. “I was elated about the whole thing.”
After chatting for a few minutes, Williams returned to the couch. He said nothing.
A few minutes later, the pick for Jacksonville was announced. The room of 15-20 family members and friends erupted.
Derrick stood up and firmly embraced his brother.
“We just started hugging, and we gave each other a handshake and said, ‘We did it, we did it!’ ” Williams said. “And then it was one of the first times I saw my brother cry.”
Williams did a couple of quick interviews, remained at the house the rest of the day and went out to celebrate later that night.
Four months later, Williams signed a five-year contract with the Jaguars. He ended up earning nearly $12.2 million, most of it in signing bonuses.
In those five seasons with Jacksonville, Williams started 53 games. He caught 189 passes for 2,322 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Considering his high selection, Williams was deemed a disappointment. Some critics have considered him one of the biggest busts in NFL Draft history.
18 Touchdowns Reggie Williams scored in five seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Once Gene Smith took over as the team’s general manager in January 2009, Williams’ tenure with the Jaguars was over. He was released.
A month later, Williams was arrested and charged for driving while intoxicated and possessing marijuana in Houston. Both charges were later dropped.
In April, Williams got in trouble with the law again, this time for an altercation with police officers at a local nightclub. He was charged with being in possession of a controlled substance (cocaine). He ended up paying a fine and serving two years of probation.
In 2010, Williams was signed by the Seattle Seahawks in the offseason, but was released during the summer two months later.
The last catch Williams ever made in professional football came in 2013. He hauled in a one-handed touchdown for the Toronto Argonauts in their final preseason game. He was released two days later.
Today, Williams still lives in Houston. He has been married to Brandy Williams, a local real-estate agent, since 2012. They celebrate their four-year anniversary in July.
They have three children together — Rush (6 years old), Raider (4) and Rockett (2).
Williams is a full-time father, coaching Rush’s soccer and tee-ball teams.
“My big thing now is being a great husband and a great dad,” Williams said. “I am just focused on … keeping a smile on my wife’s face.”
Does he miss football? Sure. He’s only 32.
“I don’t know if that feeling will ever go away,” he said.
Williams raves about the athletic ability in all of his boys — especially Rockett.
And if any of them ever get in the same position to be drafted in the NFL, what would his advice be?
“Just have fun, and don’t let anybody on the outside dictate or change your mood,” Williams said. “And be around friends and loved ones. If you want to go to New York, go to New York (for the draft). And if you want to stay home, stay home.
“So just be cool. Just realize all the hard work you put in, so just enjoy it, because it will be like nothing else you’ve ever experienced.”
Locals drafted in first round
* — Curt Marsh, the No. 23 overall pick by Oakland in 1981, was born in Tacoma but attended Snohomish HS.
Notable second-rounders: Clyde Werner (Wilson, 1970), Ray Horton (Mount Tahoma, 1983), Lawyer Milloy (Lincoln, 1996) and Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Gig Harbor, 2014).