Patten, Williams were teammates in college and high school
If New England Patriots wide receiver David Patten repeats his performance of three years ago -- when he caught a touchdown pass to help beat the Steelers in the AFC Championship game -- you might be able to blame cornerback Willie Williams.
And it would have nothing to do with the possibility of Patten running past Williams.
Patten and Williams were teammates at Western Carolina and Spring Valley (S.C.) High School.
"He taught me to always give 100 percent on every single play and at every practice," Patten said. "I owe a lot of my success to him. I was a freshman when he was a senior. He played an integral role in my development."
Patten and Williams are examples of smaller players from a small school who have managed to build long careers in the NFL. Patten, 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, was one of the Patriots' most productive offensive players, with 44 receptions for 800 yards and seven touchdowns. Williams, 5-9, 194, has started for the Steelers most of the season at left cornerback where he replaced Chad Scott, who injured his knee.
Patten is an eight-year veteran; Williams was drafted in the sixth round of the 1993 draft and is back with the Steelers for his second stint.
"I've been in the league eight years, and that's a long time," Patten said. "To be in it 12 years, double-digits, like he has is an accomplishment, especially for a small guy like he is and like I am myself.
"He's a solid guy, and he's been a starter the majority of his years. They (Steelers) brought him back for leadership, I think, but now, he's starting again."
Williams was a senior at Western Carolina when Patten was a freshman, but they ate all of their meals together and stayed in the same dormitory.
Despite their longevity, they have played against each other only once -- three months ago when the Steelers beat the Patriots at Heinz Field. Williams said he seldom was asked to cover Patten.
Asked who would win their individual matchup, Williams said, "I don't know. He's going to make plays. I'll make plays. He is not in the NFL for nothing. He's been making plays for them ever since he got there.
"He's a hard worker. He's a great receiver. It feels good to see him in there. There aren't too many people from Western Carolina in the NFL."
Said Patten: "For two Western Carolina guys to be out there in the AFC Championship game shows that Western puts out some good talent. It represents our school in a positive way."