One of Catholic Memorial's all-time greats, current Houston Texans offensive tackle Brennan Williams, was honored at halftime of tonight's basketball contest with Brockton, having his jersey No. 73 officially retired by the school.
Williams, a 2009 graduate who played in the prestigious U.S. Army All-American Bowl, is just the third CM athlete to have his number retired in any sport, joining Ron Perry (basketball) and Ted Donato (hockey). Following his star-studded career at CM, Williams went on to play at the University of North Carolina, where he was an Honorable Mention All-ACC in 2012. Williams was selected in the third round (89th overall) by the Texans last April, but missed all of his rookie season with a microfracture in his knee.
Standing in the doorway of CM's hallowed Ron Perry Gymnasium, where the Knights easily blasted Brockton 95-64, Brennan discussed a number of topics with ESPNBoston.com:
Memories that come to mind upon returning to the building: "Especially the basketball games, being in the fan section, doing all our chants and being the rowdiest crowd in the Catholic Conference. Being back in the building, not a lot has really changed much, and that's pretty cool."
Reaction upon finding out he'd had his number retired: "I found out a couple of weeks ago. I guess the banner's been up for a couple of weeks, and I saw a picture of the banner. Coach [Alex Campea] called me up and said whenever I can get back for a game, they'd like to actually do it officially. It's awesome. I'm the first football player to do it ever, so it's really a great honor and a big blessing."
Life lessons learned at CM that he still applies today: "All kinds of stuff, and I was ready if I had to give a speech (laughs). Just the whole poise in class, maintaining yourself, being well-spoken, not limiting yourself in any way, representing where you're from to the fullest wherever you go."
What he would have said to the crowd tonight: "If I had to say something to the kids, I would have said this is the greatest place in the world to go to high school. We make incredible people, whether you are a professional athlete or artist or anything. Just find what you want to do, and stick with it."
Biggest learning curve in the NFL so far: "Just all the technique stuff. Unfortunately I wasn't able to play in any games this year due to injury, but just in practice and going against guys like J.J. Watt...All-Pro talent like that, you know, everything you've got to do it right."
What it's like facing J.J. Watt in practice: "It's a different experience (laughs). He's that good for a reason, because he practices that good. It was a good test to see where I was at, and I'm excited to get it going again this year."
How his recovery is going: "It's a slow process, the procedure that I had. We're getting to the point where it's about almost a year out now, so slowly but surely we're getting there."
Timeframe on his return? "I'll be back on the field for spring. I'm really looking forward to it because I haven't been healthy in, I dunno, two years now. So just to be able to be at my full capacity, be able to go out there and be myself is really exciting."
On where his interests in Japanese anime and pro wrestling sprouted from: "I was way into pro wrestling before I got here [to CM]. Same thing with anime. I've told this story before, my dad always tried to bring back stuff from where he played, and I think those are how those things get pictured, when he tried to bring back things he thought I might like. I don't usually let go of things too easily (laughs). My favorite wrestler growing up was probably The Rock.
"Going back, I've always been appreciative of Japanese culture and stuff like that. I was always interested in that kind of thing [anime], and I kind of stuck with it as I got older. You run out of stuff, and you've got to go to the source eventually, that's kind what ended up happening."
On his individuality and self-expression: "Never be afraid to do you. Don't even limit yourself to what somebody expects you to be. If you think something's cool, go for it. And even if it's not in the dress code, wait until you get out of school and go crazy."