Clarence Williams, a defensive end who was a stalwart of the Packers’ defense in the 1970s, has died at the age of 70.
Nicknamed “Big Cat,” Williams was, at 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds, known for both his size and his quickness. He grew up in Texas, led his high school to a state championship and then went to Prairie View A&M and was an 11th-round draft pick of the Cowboys in 1969. In 1970 he was traded along with Malcolm Walker to the Packers in exchange for Hall of Fame cornerback Herb Adderley. Having lived his entire life in Texas, he didn’t know what to expect.
“I just didn’t know much about Green Bay,” Williams recalled years later to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I was a small-town country boy from Texas. I watched Green Bay in the Super Bowls and the Packers-Cowboys games all the time on TV. Green Bay was just so far north, and I hadn’t gone anywhere north in my life. I had no sense of the climate or the town. . . . I saw cornfields and woods on the plane and then went straight to St. Norbert’s [the college where the Packers had training camp]. I was young, 24 or 25, and was just in awe. The weather was so different and there weren’t any black people up there. I couldn’t get a haircut anywhere. All I knew about Green Bay was the football team.”
Williams, who would come to love Green Bay so much that he stayed even after his playing career ended, had perhaps his greatest game in 1972, when he led the Packers to an NFC Central-clinching win over the Vikings. Williams, lined up against future Hall of Fame tackle Ron Yary, sacked future Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton three times in that game.
“I’ve been in Green Bay 10 years and I’ve never seen anybody tackle Fran Tarkenton three times in one game,” Packers linebacker Dave Robinson said. after the game “But the Big Cat did it today.”
Williams said in 2012 that the performance against the Vikings was one he’d like to be remembered for.
“I still have the tape of the ’72 Vikings game, but haven’t pulled it out in a while,” Williams said. “Last time I watched it was with my kids. One of these days, I’ll have to get it put on a CD.”
Williams is survived by his wife of 48 years, three children and two grandchildren.