A year ago at this time, Mo Williams had a chip on his shoulder. This year, as he helped bring down the curtain on the Jaguars' offseason conditioning program, Williams did so with the inner peace of having proved his worth and with a sharp focus on holding onto the starting job he earned last season.
"I almost (needed) to prove to everybody what I can do," Williams said of his attitude heading into last year's training camp, after having been stripped of the starting right tackle job he had held for six years.
"It gives you a little edge," he said of the chip-on-the-shoulder attitude. "The approach you had when everything was going adversely is how you need to approach every day in this game."
Williams went into last season as an extra. Tony Pashos moved Williams out at right tackle and Williams started practicing at left tackle so he might provide depth at both positions. Then, at midseason, the Jaguars lost starting right guard Chris Naeole for the season and, all of a sudden, Williams became a guard.
He stayed there the rest of the year and played well enough to cause the Jaguars to sign him to a four-year contract this past winter, less than a year after having done a one-year deal that would allow him to become a free agent following the 2007 season. That was the low point in Williams' career.
Naeole's injury, however, would turn Williams' career in a whole new direction. Now, heading into this year's training camp, Williams has the lead in his competition with Uche Nwaneri for the starting left guard job.
"Mostly I proved to myself what I can do; having that confidence in myself," Williams said.
Williams achieved 100 percent attendance in offseason conditioning; no senior skip-out day for him on Thursday. Clearly, he's serious about his battle to hold onto the left guard job.
"I live here in town and at this point in time I understand the importance of getting your body ready for a 16-game schedule. The body needs to be in top shape," Williams said. "As an offensive lineman, you understand the importance of strength. You've got to be strong and you've got to be able to endure."
There are flecks of gray in his hair now, as Williams heads into year eight of his career.
"Some of the rookies are calling me sir. I'm getting a different outlook on the game. In the next couple of years, this might be it. I'm going to go as long as I can go. Once the love of the game is gone and I physically can't do it anymore, I'll definitely pull out," Williams said.
"I'm still in a position that I can say I'm blessed. The average career in the NFL is four years. I've improved every year and last year I improved on my versatility. There's still the love for competition," he added.
You might say a mid-life career change has kept him young.