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Kyle Williams made costly errors, but he shouldn’t be crucified

The Giants’ Jacquian Williams (57) knocks ball out 49ers kick returner Kyle Williams’ hands overtime Sunday. The Giants recovered fumble

The Giants’ Jacquian Williams (57) knocks the ball out of 49ers kick returner Kyle Williams’ hands in overtime Sunday. The Giants recovered the fumble, then kicked a game-winning field goal to reach the Super Bowl. | AP

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Updated: February 25, 2012 8:21AM



Two weeks ago, before the NFC divisional playoffs, San Francisco 49ers receiver Kyle Williams conveyed just how passionately he wanted to help his team reach the Super Bowl and make a name for himself.

‘‘I’m excited about the opportunity, and I’m going to play a role in this,’’ Williams, 23, told the Sun-Times. ‘‘It’s all coming together.’’

Then everything collapsed.

Williams is a household name, but not for the reasons he
dreamed about.

He’s a goat, not a hero. And he’s vilified, not celebrated.

In the most-watched NFC Championship Game since 1995 — one viewed by 57.6 million people — Williams muffed one punt return and fumbled another, setting up the New York Giants’ final 10 points, including their game-winning field goal in overtime.

What happened after that is something you might not wish on your worst enemy.

Williams, who is best-known for being a son of White Sox general manager Ken Williams, became a lightning rod on Twitter, with fans bombarding his account with reprehensible comments, including death threats.

Although he’s single and doesn’t have children, one poster said his wife, kids and family ‘‘deserved’’ to die. Another suggested that 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh should give Williams a game ball that ‘‘explodes when he gets in his car.’’

Williams started ‘‘trending,’’ which means he was among the most popular subjects on Twitter, late Sunday and remained among the top 10 in the United States into Monday evening.

His family expressed outrage at the reaction, and his father told ESPN his son played with an injured left shoulder.

The silver lining to all this is Williams. He didn’t hide from the spotlight, answering questions after the game and again Monday. More important, he owned up to his mistakes.

Asked about the shoulder injury Monday, Williams told reporters: ‘‘Everybody’s dinged up here and there. .  .  . If what [my father] said was saying that was the cause for any of the mistakes that were made, that’s not it. I take full responsibility for the mistake I did make, and you’ve got to play with what you’ve got.’’

Asked about the scorn directed at him on Twitter, Williams said he didn’t pay the website any mind. Instead, he focused on the positive feedback he received from his family and teammates.

‘‘That was really all I needed because that’s all that matters, when it comes down to it, was the guys who were wearing the same jersey as me and the family and friends who were close by,’’ he said. ‘‘You just bounce back and move through it. It’s one of those things you have to learn from.’’

It has been said the measure of a man isn’t how he handles success but how he handles adversity.

It’s early yet, but Williams has shown many signs of maturity. Against his father’s wishes, he decided to focus solely on football, giving up a promising baseball career.

‘‘It’s one of those things where you could play ‘What if?’ But if I went the baseball route, I don’t know if it would have panned out right or not,’’ Williams told the Sun-Times this month. ‘‘But I’m blessed to be in the position I am now, and I just want to make the most of it.’’

A sixth-round pick, Williams was an afterthought on the 49ers last season. But he emerged as a versatile contributor this season.

Universally — and genuinely, it seemed — teammates such as linebacker Patrick Willis and kicker David Akers offered their support of Williams.

‘‘It’s painful,’’ Williams said. ‘‘We’re very passionate about what we do, and we’re very passionate about getting to the Super Bowl. To be that close and not get it done, it was painful, but it’s something we’re going to move through as a team.

‘‘And we’ll be back.’’

Given the price of his fumbles, though, will Williams return to the 49ers next season?

Regardless, given his mind-set and maturity, this isn’t the last we’ve heard from him.



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