When he was young and brash, Williams felt a certain sense of it. He was, after all, taken with the 10th overall pick in the 2005 draft by the struggling Detroit Lions, expected to be the big-play threat the team's offense lacked after two standout seasons at USC.
And now that he's 26, spent the past two seasons out of the NFL and has his college coach to thank for a chance to resurrect his career with the Seattle Seahawks, Williams is fighting another perception of entitlement -- that the association with Pete Carroll is the only reason he's back in football.
"A lot of people think this is because of my relationship with coach Carroll that the position was given to me, 'that was his old coach, so, of course, it was going to work out this way,'" Williams said Wednesday. "I just think the only thing I can take from it is how I've controlled my emotions, how I've handled the situation. Every day is a new day. Every day is an audition all over for me."
Williams' attempt to put to rest his first three lackluster NFL seasons begins Sunday. He'll start for the Seahawks when they open the season at home against the San Francisco 49ers.
It'll be the first time in Williams' career that he's an opening-day starter, and he understands the significance. It's validation of the work he put in to get back into football after ballooning to 270 pounds. It's affirmation of the chance that Carroll and Seahawks general manager John Schneider took last spring to give him another opportunity.
"I'm here to prove that, if given the opportunity you give me, this is what you are going to get," Williams said. "That was going to be the case with any team, whether that was coming to play for coach Carroll or going to play for another coach. They were going to get the same, because that's what I wanted to bring to the table."
What Williams brings is speed, size and youth. At 6-foot-5, 235 pounds, Williams instantly is one of the largest receivers in the NFL, but with the speed to shed defenders and turn short passes into touchdowns. He did just that in the Seahawks' preseason opener against the Tennessee Titans, taking a short hitch and turning it into a 51-yard touchdown.
Carroll and Schneider were so impressed with how Williams performed during the preseason, they felt comfortable cutting loose veteran T.J. Houshmandzadeh -- eating more than $6 million in the process -- and giving Williams the starting job.
"He has been impeccably directed throughout this whole time. He has just been a tremendous competitor in every way that he could present himself," Carroll said. "I was probably tougher on him than anybody because of my background with him and knowing him and knowing inside of it and all, and probably more thrilled than anybody to see him get to this point where he's got a significant role to play on this team now."
The reconnection between Carroll and Williams first started last fall when the coach was still at USC and the receive stopped by campus. Carroll noticed the weight that Williams gained after he was released by the Tennessee Titans at the end of the 2007 season had started to disappear. Williams spoke of rededicating himself to receiving another shot in the NFL.
Carroll then came to Seattle and wanted to see if Williams was true to his word.
"I really had to wait and see. There was some time," Carroll said. "I've even reserved my judgment on this all the way through the (organized team activities) season and see how Mike was and if he was really dead serious about this."
Williams caught 10 passes and averaged more than 17 yards per catch in his limited preseason action. It was nearly a quarter of the receptions that Williams has in his NFL career -- he hauled in just 44 in three seasons with the Lions, Oakland Raiders and Titans.
Sunday will be the first time Williams takes the field in an NFL regular-season game since Dec. 9, 2007. His last catch came in October 2007 with the Raiders.
"I don't look at it as my last chance. This is the chance that is presented to me right now," Williams said. "If I can take anything, it's that I've stayed focused, kept my nose down and just tried to take care of what I can take care of, and that is being the right guy in this locker room."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press