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Finally a Raider, He Just Wants the Ball : Pro football: Running back Harvey Williams says he is eager to display his talent and shed perpetual potential label.

October 14, 1994|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Potential.

Harvey Williams has it. That's what people have said all his life.

Harvey Williams will fulfill it. That's what people promised when he arrived in Kansas City.

Harvey Williams will never realize it. That's what they said when he left.

He will fulfill it. That's what people promised when he arrived here in Los Angeles.

He will never realize it. That's what they said when the Raider running game disappeared at the start of the season.

And what does Harvey Williams say? You want to see potential? Give me the ball!

Williams had the ball at Hempstead High in Texas, where he rushed for 5,883 yards and scored 70 touchdowns, eclipsing marks set by Eric Dickerson.

Williams had the ball at Louisiana State, where he ran for 953 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior and had 213 yards rushing in a game against Kentucky.

In those days, his potential was a blessing. It enabled him to become an NFL first-round draft choice of the Kansas City Chiefs in 1991, the 21st pick overall. But Williams had to wait his turn. Ahead of him were Barry Word and Christian Okoye.

Williams wasn't worried. He had plenty of time. And all that potential.

He played enough in his rookie season to gain 447 yards in 97 carries and average 4.6 yards a carry. He rushed for 103 yards against the Buffalo Bills, the only 100-yard effort of his professional career. But, in what would prove to be the pattern in his years in Kansas City, Williams was even overshadowed that day. Okoye ran for 122 yards in that game.

Williams' totals dropped his second year, down to 78 carries for 262 yards and a 3.4 average.

By 1993, however, Word and Okoye were gone. Finally, Williams would get the chance to realize that potential.

Wouldn't he?

In the off-season, the Chiefs signed Marcus Allen, who, free of his troubles with the Raiders, had a brilliant season, scoring 15 touchdowns.

And Williams? Not activated for eight of Kansas City's last nine games, he finished with his poorest season statistically, gaining only 149 yards in 42 carries.

Looking at the options facing Coach Marty Schottenheimer, his choices concerning his running backs appear understandable, but not to Williams, who sees it purely in political terms.

"I felt like I had proven myself and it was just something personal," he said. "I don't know what it was. I'm just glad I'm out of that situation."

Schottenheimer has always denied politics were involved, but Williams didn't see much value in discussing it with the coach.

"What's the use of talking if you're not going to do anything about it?" he said. "I feel like I'm a talented running back. I was taken in the first round. I could see (not playing) if I was given the ball 20 to 25 times a game, or even 15 times a game, and wasn't putting up the numbers. But every time I was out there, I was making big plays and winning games. That's all I could do. But now Marty Schottenheimer is a thing of the past. I don't dwell on it like I used to."

Off the record, Kansas City people complained about the lack of consistency from Williams. Because the Chiefs went to other backs in goal-line situations, Williams wound up running for only two touchdowns in his three years with the team.

At the end of last season, with a year still remaining on his contract, he was released. The day before the draft, he agreed to a one-year, $250,000 deal with the Raiders.

"(Owner) Al Davis and (Coach) Art Shell didn't promise me anything," Williams said. "I just wanted to come here and work. I'd have come here and played for free, just to put that silver and black on. God has blessed me and put me on a team I've wanted to play for from Day 1. It's a dream come true for me."

It's a dream he has had since he was 6 and playing youth football for a team called the Raiders. He still has a picture of himself as a kid in silver and black.

He figured he would immediately fit into the Raider picture this year because they had struggled on the ground last season after Greg Robinson went to the sidelines in December with a knee injury.

But the Raiders stuck to their philosophy of making newcomers earn their places. Ty Montgomery, the starting tailback at the end of last season, remains in that spot even though Williams has moved into the team lead with 155 yards rushing in 50 carries. He ran for 65 yards Sunday against the New England Patriots, the highest individual total of the season for the Raiders. But he's still averaging only 10 carries a game.

"It's hard for any running back to get a rhythm when you're not getting the ball that much," Williams said. "Some games we got behind and we couldn't run the ball. Things like that happen. Like I told Tyrone, 'When you get out there, try to make something happen.' That's all you can ask for and pray for. It doesn't bother me that I'm not starting. It doesn't bother me that I'm not getting as many carries as I would like. That's the game. When you do get out there, try to get the attention of the coaches.

"When people say I'm a bust, it really upsets me. When I've been given a true opportunity, then you can judge me. How can you judge a horse if you haven't ridden it? The more I get the ball, the stronger I get.

"If you give me the ball 20, 25 times a game, you can't hold me down. I believe so much in my ability that no football team can keep me from making big plays."

For now, though, that remains under the heading of potential , a word with which Williams is all too familiar.

"Give Harvey Williams a chance," he insists, "and you can tap into that potential."

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