TAMPA — When Aeneas Williams steps to the podium Saturday night for his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech, Tampa Bay Buccaneers assistant coach Gill Byrd will have a difficult time hiding his emotions.
Byrd, who coaches Tampa Bay cornerbacks, served as a mentor to Williams in the early 1990s. Byrd was finishing up a stellar career with the San Diego Chargers and Williams was just learning how to be a pro with the Cardinals when they crossed paths.
“I always wanted to serve younger players and Aeneas asked me after a game, ‘Can I call you and come to work out with you in the summer?’ Byrd said. “That was very unusual. There were guys I played with for five or six years that never asked me that.’’
With Byrd’s help, Williams went on to earn eight Pro Bowl berths and his Hall of Fame bust will be unveiled Saturday during an induction ceremony that will also usher in former Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks into Canton, Ohio.
In recent years, Williams has been a mentor to Byrd’s son, Jarius, a Pro Bowl safety who signed with the Saints this spring as a free agent from Buffalo.
“His father was one of the best cornerbacks that I’ve ever seen and one of the guys that poured into my life,’’ said Williams, who excelled at both corner and safety during a 14-year career that produced 55 interceptions.
Gill Byrd said Williams would join him for workouts at his San Diego home in the offseason.
“After the first year, his wife Tracy would also come out and we probably did that for three or four years,’’ Byrd said. “They would stay for a week or so. I’m honored he talks about me. I didn’t realize I had that type of impact in his life. I knew he was good and I knew he had the ability to get to Canton.
“To be on losing teams and still go to Pro Bowls, that’s a special guy. He wanted to be the best at his position and I’m so proud he’s going into the Hall. He’s like a brother to me. I love him and his family to death.’’