One of the bigger surprises of the NFL offseason last year came when the Carolina Panthers cut long-time running back DeAngelo Williams.
The story goes that Williams was taken completely off-guard after serving nine years in Carolina’s backfield. Already fuming from what he perceived as the team ignoring his mother’s death in February, Williams was shocked to get a notice on March 10th that he had been cut because he was no longer good enough to keep his spot.
Five days later, the Pittsburgh Steelers signed Williams to a two-year, $4 million deal which turned out to be one of the best bargains in the league for 2015.
With their superstar starter Le’Veon Bell missing most of the regular season due to suspension and injury, the Steelers desperately needed someone to pick up the slack at the running back position. Williams did all that and a whole lot more. He went on to have one of the best seasons of his NFL career.
In the end, DeAngelo Williams tallied 907 rushing yards (his most since 2009), scored 11 touchdowns, and added another 367 yards in the receiving game (a career high.)
Early in the season Williams appeared to be playing with a fierocity that we had not seen from him in years, as if he was motivated by Carolina’s cutting him. Now we have proof. This morning on Twitter, Williams shared a photo of the notice he got from the league on the day he was released. He claimed that he walks by it every single morning and uses it to fuel himself:
Having a chip on your shoulder may not be the healthiest thing in the world, emotionally speaking. However, many of the greatest athletes of our time have used a perceived slight to push their abilities to another level.
The most famous example might be Michael Jordan, who was cut from his varsity team back in high school. Jordan was furious, and for years after he used that anger to make himself better. Even during his retirement speech, Jordan mentioned the high school coach who was responsible, saying that he wanted that man to remember that he made a mistake.
DeAngelo Williams may not be the Michael Jordan of football, but he certainly seems to feel the same way about the Panthers.
Of course Carolina went on to have a pretty good year themselves and advanced all the way to the Super Bowl. Still, it’s hard to argue that they made the right call when they decided Williams couldn’t hack it anymore.