NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tank Williams, the hard-hitting former Titans safety, is successfully making his mark in the real estate market of the San Francisco Bay Area.
Williams participated in the NFL’s entrepreneurship program when injuries began to shorten his playing career. He attended programs at Harvard, Stanford and Wharton and built on connections he made during college at Stanford to land a job with a real estate investment and development firm in 2009.
Even a strong real estate market like the Bay Area’s was hurt by the economic downturn, but Williams persisted and made it through the downturn by working as a servicer for banks. He’s worked on large-scale projects and smaller ones and received his broker’s license in June, enabling him to sell properties.
“It’s totally different from football, but at the same time, it’s engaging and challenging and something different every day,” Williams said. “I’ve just been enjoying the process.”
|The Titans tabbed Williams in the second round of the 2002 NFL Draft. Click here for a slideshow of his four seasons with Tennessee.|
Williams suffered three knee injuries and endured one shoulder surgery that he credits for making him a stronger person. He’s applied diligence in researching the market and maintains cognizance on where it is heading through a multitude of conversations with other brokers, owners and banks.
“Unfortunately, my career didn’t end the way that I would have liked, but at the same time, I learned a lot, made a lot of good friends and lived in some great places and it molded me into the man I am today,” Williams said. “I can say that it attributed to a lot of the success that I’ve already achieved in real estate and that I hope to achieve.”
Williams has worked in the commercial and residential markets and founded Pro West Invest in May.
“I think I really found my niche in the Bay Area in real estate and just felt like this would be the best opportunity for me to continue to grow as a person and as an entrepreneur,” Williams said.
Williams, who will turn 33 in June, was born Clevan Williams in Gulfport, Miss. He got his nickname not on the football field but when his sister saw how much milk his mother gave him as an infant and suggested she give him a whole “tank” instead of a bottle because his thirst was so great.
“I’m happy that I actually grew into the nickname because when people hear that I got it from drinking a tank of milk, they’re like, ‘Really?’ But having success on the football field definitely helped me in that department, so I don’t get a lot of rippings for being named after a bottle of milk,” Williams explained.
It wound up being a great name for a strong safety, and he decided to continue using it after his playing career.
“You talk to a lot of people and they say maybe after your NFL career, maybe you should use your given name because you want to separate what you’ve done on the football field away from what you’re doing in the business world, but at the same time, I look at it, I’m the same person I was on the gridiron that I am in the real estate world,” Williams said. “I’m still hungry, I’m still driven. I feel like I’m smart. I’m educated and I’m going to work hard to be successful at whatever I do. That doesn’t change, so whether I go by Clevan or Tank, I’m going to be the same person so I might as well stick with it.”
Williams played through a back injury during his senior year of high school and only received scholarship offers from Stanford and Central Florida. He said his choice “one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
“The people I met, whether it was professors, students, my teammates, it was one of those environments where everyone strived to be the best at what they do and it challenges everyone to keep up to that pace, so I believe that’s another factor in me always striving to achieve the most out of life, whether it’s the NFL or community service or embarking on this adventure in real estate,” Williams said. “It’s just one of those things where I always want to strive and achieve the most I can and make sure I challenge myself day in and day out.”
The Titans drafted Williams in the second round of the 2002 NFL Draft with the 45th overall pick, enabling him to realize a childhood dream of playing professionally. He had been a fan of Steve McNair since the quarterback’s days at Alcorn State, where a few of Williams’ cousins attended, and built relationships with other Titans that have continued for more than 10 years.
“Playing in that atmosphere, Nashville, that was just like playing in front of college fans. They were so passionate about their team, and we had some really good years too,” Williams recalled. “I can say that my four years in Nashville were probably the most enjoyable years I had in the NFL, based off the success we had on the field, the friends I had in the locker room and the experiences I had during the season and the offseason.”
Williams started immediately and helped Tennessee reverse a 1-4 start by winning 10 of the final 11 to claim the first AFC South title and make it all the way to the AFC Championship. The turnaround, Williams said, involved players eliminating mental errors and mistakes and taking the approach of “if you just do your job and not try to do too much, that anything can be achieved.”
Williams recorded 285 tackles and four interceptions in 57 starts with the Titans. He missed the final two months of his third season with a knee injury but returned for a full slate in 2005 and recorded a career-high 83 tackles. He signed with Minnesota as a free agent in 2006 but suffered a season-ending knee injury in training camp. He played two games with the Vikings in 2007, then signed with the Patriots in 2008 and suffered another knee injury in training camp. He signed with New England again in 2009 but was released before that season and turned to his second career.
Although the West Coast has become a great home for him, Williams said Tennessee “will always have a special place in my heart” and he still appreciates his time on the Gulf Coast. When asked which coast has the best seafood, Williams said, “I’m not going to be a traitor to my home state.”
“Mississippi has the best seafood, bar none. The seafood is fresh and I think it’s more flavorful,” Williams said. “My palate has always been catered to the Cajun seasoning, so I can’t depart from that.
“I will say there are some amazing restaurants out here in California,” he continued. “They’re one of the pioneers of the new American cuisine using fresh and healthy ingredients, so I will say that I spent a lot of time going out and dining in San Francisco, just trying the different restaurants. It’s an amazing city in an amazing area, so you can’t help but take advantage of the food and the sights, whether it’s going to Alcatraz or across the Golden Gate Bridge or to the Redwoods, it’s just an amazing area.”