So why did no team draft out of in 2006? Jack Bicknell III, his college coach, has an even better question about Williams, a Houma, La., native who joined the Bulldogs as a walk-on.
“I’m wondering why we didn’t recruit him in our home state,” said Bicknell, now the Giants’ assistant offensive line coach.
Williams has no answers and no interest in finding out.
“I don’t know what they were looking at at that point in time,” Williams said of N.F.L. scouts. “It’s probably something that I’ll never know.”
He said it no longer mattered: “It’s about the Packers. They gave me a chance, and I’m thankful I’m able to play like I am.”
According to the Packers, the 5-foot-11 Williams is the only N.F.L. undrafted free agent with at least four interceptions in each of the past three seasons. This season he intercepted six passes and defended 23, both career highs, while often outplaying his teammate at the other corner, , the 2009 defensive player of the year. On Thursday Williams, who is 27, was named to his first Pro Bowl, replacing the injured Asante Samuel of Philadelphia.
“When these playoffs and the are completed,” Green Bay Coach Mike McCarthy said, “everybody in the country is going to know who Tramon Williams is.”
Many already do.
In a wild-card game, Williams wrapped up a 21-16 victory over the Eagles . He added two more interceptions last week in a divisional victory in Atlanta, one a game-changer with the Falcons driving just before halftime.
From studying film, Williams recognized Atlanta’s formation and expected that receiver Roddy White would run a short out pattern. Williams stayed back, baiting quarterback Matt Ryan into making the throw, then broke to the ball. put the Packers ahead, 28-14. Green Bay won, 48-21.
“I wasn’t doing much, just doing my job,” Williams said. “I was just put in position to make those plays. The good thing about this defense is, we’ve got three or four guys who can make the same plays. That’s what’s scary about it.”
The Packers recognized Williams’s contributions in late November, signing him to a four-year contract extension worth about $33 million. Linebacker A. J. Hawk said Williams deserved every good thing that came his way.
“There’s a reason he’s making huge plays, because he lives the right way,” Hawk said. “He prepares right. He is just doing everything the way you should be. And has crazy amounts of talent. But he’s doing the work to get the best out of it.”
Bicknell said he never expected Williams to play this well. Then again, he was not sure he could believe his eyes after first spotting Williams at a tryout for walk-ons.
Out of the corner of his eye, Bicknell said he noticed someone tall and reed thin jump preposterously high in a vertical leap test. Bicknell did not remember the height, but he turned and watched Williams hit the same mark again. Bicknell was stunned.
“Rarely do you find players at these walk-on days,” Bicknell said. “I remember that I said to him, ‘Please tell me you’re academically eligible.’ ”
He was. Then Bicknell asked him where he was from and said, “How did we miss you?”
Turned out Bicknell had company. Williams had been second-team all-state in his senior year at Assumption High School in Napoleonville, La., but could not get a sniff from a four-year college, even though many coaches recruited the standout Assumption back Brandon Jacobs, who is now with the Giants. Williams attended Louisiana Tech to study electrical engineering, graduating with degrees in sociology and computer information services.
He walked on as a freshman after watching a game and deciding he was as good as the Bulldogs’ defensive backs. By his junior year, he was starting.
“I’m telling you, that kid was determined,” said Ed Jackson, a longtime Tech assistant coach. “He had that tremendous work ethic. I believe that if you work hard, greatness will find you.”
The signed Williams in May 2006 as a free agent but cut him at the end of training camp. Several failed tryouts later, Williams landed on the Green Bay practice squad. He forced his way onto the roster the next summer with an eye-opening camp. He started 19 games in 2008 and 2009, then took over at right cornerback late last season after Al Harris sustained a season-ending left knee injury.
“I don’t think I could have sat up there and told you I was capable of this,” Williams said.
“If you ask anyone who I’ve grown up with, I’ve always been a smaller kid going up against the bigger guys. I was always that athletic. So they always say, ‘Little Tramon Williams,’ but he’s outdoing everyone. That’s the way I approached things. Anything that was given to me, I saw it as a challenge and went after it. And that’s the same way I felt about everything else.”
Now, the player nobody recruited or drafted is one victory from the Super Bowl.
“I’m really proud of him and happy for him,” Bicknell said. “I wish he was playing for us, I can tell you that.”