HAMILTON - Shomari Williams is homeless.
But while the defensive end remains in a search for off-field digs, he’s focused on entrenching himself on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ line after three seasons with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
“I have a chance to be an integral part of this team and to help be one of the people that helps in the turnaround,” Williams, who joined the Ticats via free agency in February, said.
“I have a lot of nieces and nephews that I have not really seen a lot of, and being closer to home (Brampton) is something I wanted to do.
“I could have signed with other teams, but for me I really wanted to come home. It was a big thing for me. I wanted to start over.”
Williams watched practice from the sideline at McMaster University on Monday as he nursed a minor injury. He expects to be healthy soon, and once he is, has a fairly simple goal: To make an impact on a new-look Ticats defence that allowed the most points in the Canadian Football League last season.
“Tenacity, energy, understanding — he can bring it all,” Hamilton defensive co-ordinator Orlondo Steinauer said. “But he has to want to do it. It’s up to him. He will be as good as he wants to be. We will put him in situations where he can make plays.”
Selected first overall in 2010 by Saskatchewan, Williams spent the majority of his first two seasons in the CFL racing downfield on the Roughriders’ special teams. The 28-year-old started all 18 games last year, and primarily was a linebacker, but he had been a star defensive end at Queen’s in 2009 after transferring from the University of Houston.
“I understand that is what his resume reads (being picked first), but I just want him to get better daily and to come in here refreshed,” Steinauer said.
“He made a choice to be here, we wanted him here, and so I am excited to see how he bad he wants to get better.”
Williams has no trouble with what the Ticats are hoping is a permanent switch to the end position. He is comfortable there now, but acknowledged there was some rust initially.
And though it has been three years, Williams knows the first-overall tag is something he always will carry.
“You want to be an all-star (with the expectations), but I can’t complain,” Williams said. “I can’t change the past. I look to the future and I think I still have a lot of years left. I still have lots to prove in his league.”
What’s most attractive about coming off the line?
“You get to rush the passer,” Williams said with a smile. “A sack is probably the greatest statistic you can get (for a player on defence) besides taking an interception to the house. Getting to the quarterback is a great feeling and as a defensive end you get as many opportunities as anybody to do that.”
With a straight face, Williams said he is wearing No. 9 after suiting up in No. 99 for the ’Riders because it makes him appear slimmer.
No matter the number, Williams just wants to settle in for a long run with the Ticats. A drive down the QEW from his extended family means he will have plenty of support in the next stage of his career, and though he is renting out his house in Regina, with a three-year contract, he knows he is not a rental in Steeltown.
“My expectation is to have the best year I have had in the CFL,” the 6-foot-1, 232-pound Williams said. “I’m excited about being here, excited about being close to my family (coming) to every single game, about starting over and playing on the defensive line.”
AUSTIN LOOKING FOR BETTER 'EXECUTION'
Days away from his team’s second and final pre-season game, and Kent Austin knows what he wants.
“A lot less penalties, I want to be crisper on execution, want to manage our communication on the sideline better, I want to be able to get out of personnel groupings faster, both on offence and on defence, we need fewer missed assignments, and we need to play faster and harder,” Austin, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ general manager/head coach, said without hesitation on Monday.
The Ticats will christen the refurbished Alumni Stadium at the University of Guelph on Thursday night when they play host to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Alumni Stadium will be the Ticats’ home for 2013 as a facility is built on the site of Ivor Wynne Stadium.
The Ticats beat the Montreal Alouettes in their first pre-season game last week and did so without several key veterans, including quarterback Henry Burris.
Austin said only that Burris “probably” would start against the Blue Bombers, but it’s difficult to imagine another quarterback for the first snap under centre in the Ticats’ final tuneup.
It’s worth noting the Bombers won’t have No. 1 quarterback Buck Pierce in uniform.
The Ticats released import offensive lineman David Gonzales, non-import offensive lineman Jason Medeiros and non-import fullback Daryl Stephenson. Defensive tackle Torrey Davis and offensive lineman Marc Dile have been suspended as they take care of personal business, while rookie fullback Isaac Dell has retired.
Dell, drafted by the Ticats this year, is suffering from a concussion and requires time to heal, Austin said. Dell will be welcomed back once he is healthy.
Defensive back Mike Daly suffered a sprained ankle against Montreal, an injury that Austin called “severe.”