Last month, yours truly interviewed Houston Texans Defensive End Mario Williams for a feature in the November issue of Sports Illustrated Kids. The issue with the story is on newsstands now (aka... go buy one if you haven't already!), but Mario and I ended up having such a good back-and-forth, I ended up with a lot of stuff that didn't make it into the magazine.
Keep reading for Mr. Williams' thoughts on naysayers, growing up in a town thisssssss big, and being dubbed a "Peyton Manning-stopper"...
Duane from New Jersey: Some people questioned the Texans taking you Number 1 in the 2006 NFL draft. Does proving the doubters wrong motivate you?
Mario Williams: It does. I think the biggest thing is, it keeps me humble. When things are going good, a lot of people are happy. But when things go bad, you see the same people flip on you.
DNJ: A recent article had you ranked as one of the Top 5 defensive ends of this decade. How does that feel?
Mario: It feels good. But at the same time, you try to go out and get better every day. All the greats — Bruce Smith, Reggie White, Lawrence Taylor — one day I want to be past them. That’s how I approach it. And 20 years from now, I want a kid coming out of college to say, I want to be better than [Mario Williams]. When good things are said about you, you just try to keep it going. Keep it building towards that goal.
DNJ: Part of the reason you were drafted was to be a Peyton Manning-stopper. How do you feel you’ve managed that responsibility so far in your career?
Mario: It’s something I keep in mind. Even if Peyton didn’t have an offensive line, he’d be hard to sack. He’s so smart. He sees a coverage and knows exactly what to do. It’s a challenge. You just have to be up for it.
DNJ: You were raised in a really small town. What led you to football growing up?
Mario: Growing up I was into baseball. I got into football in middle school. Then, in high school, I jumped into it a little more. Then high school to college, a little more. Now, playing in the NFL, I really jumped. But it was always something I liked to do. A lot of people think you have to start out playing football to be good at it. You don’t have to. For me, it was just part of growing up and being a kid.
DNJ: What drives you to improve?
Mario: It would be a great honor to be considered among the best one day. But the biggest thing is trying to be better than I was the day before. If you’re not getting better, you’re going backwards. So I’m always saying to myself, “What did I do last year that wasn’t right?” That’s what motivates me. Looking back on what I did earlier and trying to play better the next time.
DNJ: It sounds like you genuinely love competing.
Mario: No matter how well I did on a pass rush, how hard I thought I hit someone, there’s always a possibility to do it better. You have to [think that way]! There’s no way you can improve otherwise. The way football is constantly evolving, you can always look back and figure out a way to do something better.
DNJ: If a reader picks up a magazine article about you, what would you want him or her to know?
Mario: That I’m a human being. I’m just like you are. And I am nice. They might think I’m mean because of the way I play. But I’m down to earth. I’m dressed in athletic clothes all day. I don’t try to shine. I ride a golf cart or a Segway around my neighborhood. I’m down to earth, just like everyone else.