Super Bowl notebook: Broncos DT rose from odds jobs to big game
By Alan Robinson
Published: Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, 9:06 p.m.
There are players such as Peyton Manning, who comes from a royal heritage football family and was seen as a potential NFL player almost from the day he began throwing a football.
Then there is Sylvester Williams, a Broncos defensive tackle who never knew he had a future in football until he thought it was in his past.
He played only one season at Jefferson City (Mo.) High, and he weighed 360 when he graduated. Looking to shed a hardscrabble background in which his family often had difficulty locating adequate housing, he took a job helping to build radiators for large trucks. But after talking to plant workers who had been there for 20 and 30 years — and randomly attending a Kansas football game — he decided he wanted a better life.
Williams enrolled at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College, shed weight and walked on to the football team, even though he had started only one high school game. He made enough of an impact that he was recruited by North Carolina. Despite having four defensive line coaches in his two seasons, he made the all-ACC team and was a first-round draft pick last year.
“You've got to find people who go through all walks of life and kind of go through a lot of things. He's been through it, made it, and he's reaping the benefits,” teammate Malik Jackson said. “We get to wake up and do what we love. Some little kid, I'm sure, doesn't wake up dreaming about the assembly line.”
Opera star Renee Fleming will sing the national anthem Sunday, but she'd probably rather break out a chorus of the Steelers Polka. She was born in Indiana, Pa., but even while growing up in Rochester, N.Y., she said, “My family were die-hard Steelers fans. This is ancient history, but the ones I knew were Terry Bradshaw (and others from that era). But this year I'm neutral.” She was introduced Thursday at a press conference as “the Peyton Manning of opera.”
Seattle has been practicing at a very high pace, with the offense trying to run off plays quickly and the defense trying to be disruptive. The Seahawks again staged when they call Turnover Thursday, with the defense working to strip the ball away. “I think that we've gotten a turnover every Thursday except for one week all season,” defensive end Cliff Avril said. “It shows up on Sunday, too, so it's pretty cool to see it correlate.”
The closer it gets to game time, the better the forecast becomes. AccuWeather is forecasting a high of 49, with a low of 28 —which means the game could be played with temperatures in the 30s and no chance of snow. Winds are expected to be relatively light, gusting into the low teens.
Manning wrapped up an interview week in which he might have set a Super Bowl record for cordiality and patience. Asked by a senior citizen reporter for a TV show to give her a hug, Manning walked off a podium to do so. On Thursday, he was handed a book — in German — and Manning promised to have it translated. Asked if the quarterback seems especially loose and relaxed, tight end Julius Thomas said, “Absolutely, Peyton's been here before. Peyton, he's been through so many things in his career, he has so much experience. ... I think you can sense his excitement for the game, and that's probably what you guys are seeing a little bit of.”
Lynch more at ease
Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch also was more relaxed Thursday at his final Super Bowl news conference than he was the previous two days, smiling and even thanking reporters for talking with him. Asked about Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable, the former Raiders head coach, Lynch said, “Being from Oakland, all I knew about him was he punched people. That's my type of person.” Cable has denied a 2009 report that he punched former defensive assistant Randy Hanson, breaking his jaw. Hanson never pressed charges.
Sherman, Revis all good
Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman insists there's no feud between him and Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis, the former Pitt star. Before the season, Sherman called himself the best corner in the game, and Revis replied that Sherman doesn't have enough respect for older players. “I think one of those things, just like a lot of other things, is a lot of media fabrication more than anything,” Sherman said. “People make it more of a big deal than it really is. Guys have conversations off the field and are good friends. People would be surprised. They think they're really mortal enemies, and it's really not like that.”
Is the NFL that far away from a 70-yard field goal? Matt Prater of Denver kicked a league-record 64-yarder this season and, he said, “I've kicked it 73 (yards) in Denver in practice. It all depends on the weather and (the) altitude definitely helps in Denver on a warm, sunny day. If there is some wind and it's at my back, maybe we could kick something far. It has to be the right situation.”
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