The day was November 13, 2004. I had wanted to go to the beach. My wife, Alana, rejected the notion - instead insisting that we went to the Ale House (a local pub) as she wanted to go watch her beloved Mountaineers from West Virginia host the Boston College Eagles. It was mid-4th Quarter, the Mountaineers were scratching and clawing to stay alive. And then Willie B. entered my life. I had seen him prior to this game. I had enjoyed his abilities as a playmaker. But, 71 yards later, he had put the dagger in the hearts of the Mountaineers and forever, I would remember Willie B. as having the potential to be something SPECIAL. In fact, on November 13, 2004, Willie B. had me elevate out of my chair and spill my beer with a dramatic "OH" as he danced down the sideline in Morgantown.
On draft day, April 30, 2006, in the 4th round, the Packers drafted Willie B. Immediately, I called My Father. I called my cousin, Ryan. I called Stack. I called Wos. I called Vargas. In my eyes, the Packers had drafted GOLD in the 4th round. An absolute steal. I truly felt this way.
On October 20, 2006, I was sitting on Lincoln Rd on South Beach, two days before the Packers were to host the Miami Dolphins. I was talking to Richard Evans, Neil Buethe, Josh King, Matt Roffers, and Russ Thompson (Richard, Neil, Josh, Matt, Russ - PLEASE SPEAK UP!). One name was continuously mentioned - Willie B. This was supposed to be the first game that Willie B. showed himself. Yes, he played in the game, albeit sparingly. Once again, Willie B. got nicked up. Essentially, his season was over...before it began...
On Family Night, August 4, 2007, Willie B. performs in front of the Lambeau audience. Essentially for the first time. In the scrimmage, Willie B. picks off two passes.
In the preseason opener, at Pittsburgh, on August 11, 2007, Willie B. shows flashes as a punt returner. Once breaking loose - only to have it called back by a penalty on the other side of the field.
On August 18, 2007, Willie B. showed he was dangerous in his first preseason game at Lambeau. He ran 83 yards to set up the Packers first TD.
On August 23, 2007, at Lambeau, against Jacksonville, once again, Willie B. displayed his knack for finding the seam in the oppositions special team.
Then, came, the injury. Again, this year. Willie B. goes down in the preseason. Once again, injury seemed to have doomed this bright talent. I even wondered if he had "Tyrone Wheatley syndrome." You know - that guy who has all the talent in the world. The ultimate athlete. A physical specimen. But, the guy just cannot stay healthy. The guy that cannot keep himself on the field. Yeah, I call that the "Tyrone Wheatley syndrome."
Then came December 9, 2007. Willie B. in his second punt return as a Packer. 57 yards. A Packer TD. In fact, before the kick, I turned to Alana and Vargas who were sitting on the couch and said, "He could take this one for a Touchdown!" He must have heard me. I had waited 3 years for the moment. I was jumping up and down - literally - in my family room...Vargas wondered if I was going to hit my head on the ceiling.
Willie B. - sometimes you just have to wait for the good times to come to you...
This is not the story of "I told you so." Rather, this is a story of rejoicing. It's the Holiday Season. It's December in Green Bay. Where Legends are told at Lambeau. It's always fun when YOUR team gets YOUR player...like the Packers getting Charles Woodson, my favorite college player ever...or when the Packers draft Derrick Mayes - the only Notre Dame football player that I ever liked...or when Willie B. FINALLY makes his appearance. Yes, I'm a kid at heart, mind, soul and spirit.
Willie B., thank you. It's the Holiday Season - which is the season for giving. Thanks for my early Christmas gift. It was truly special. It's a treat to see you with your ghetto limp...with your shoulder tilt...with your swagger as you "Jump In The Stands." You do it was such honor...such grace...such style...such swagger.
Willie B., you've helped define the 2007 Packers as team. And you've added another element for teams to think about as they prepare for defeat.
G-Force, be stoked...cuz #27 is returning kicks!
Running like a butterfly - stinging like Willie B.,