Chicago Bears Top 100: #53 James “Big Cat” Williams
We’re heading into the dog days of the offseason, counting the days until the Chicago Bears 2014 season kicks off. Thanks to Bear Goggles On contributor and the fine editor of Blackhawk Up Keith Schultz’s suggestion, we’re going to do a Top 100 list of the all time Chicago Bears. It’s a fun way to pass the time and take a stroll down memory lane.
James “Big Cat” Williams (6’7, 330) was signed by the Bears as an undrafted free agent after the 1991 draft. Williams was a defensive tackle from little known Cheyney St, whose football team had just gone 0-11. The Bears kept Williams at defensive tackle for his first couple years with the team. Williams contributed as a rookie with a sack and a blocked FG, but once Chris Zorich emerged as a force the next year Williams rarely saw the field. Halfway through his 2nd season and after 5 straight games on the inactive list, HC Mike Ditka decided to switch Williams to offensive tackle. Ditka was fired after the season, but his replacement Dave Wannstedt (Boo!) decided to keep Williams at OT, but also kept him on the inactive list most of the season to give him time to learn the nuances of the tackle position.
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In 1994, Big Cat’s 4th year in the league, he finally earned a spot in the starting lineup and didn’t give it up for 9 years. Williams started a ridiculous 134 straight games for the Bears at RT. He was a true iron-man for the Bears and in the ’95 season didn’t miss any snaps on offense. That would be impressive for a player at a skill position but for an offensive lineman, who was in a full contact battle every snap, it is even more impressive. Williams also contributed on field goal defense and blocked 8 kicks over the course of his career. He was a Pro Bowl alternate in ’98 and an official selection in 2001 when the Bears went 13-3. Williams’ contributions weren’t limited to the playing field; He was a leader in the locker room, an ambassador off the field and winner of the Brian Piccolo award in 2001.
After 12 seasons with the team, his run eventually came to an end before the 2003 season when GM Jerry Angelo released Williams to free up cap space and open a spot on the line for 2nd year OT Marc Colombo. Williams spent all of his 12 year career with Bears.
What do you think of the ranking? Too high? Too low? I guess you’ll have to check back to see who finished ahead of him to judge for yourself. We’ll be counting down a different person each day as we inch our way to the September 7th season opener.