Jesse Williams' Journey from Improbable Prep to Immovable Force

Wes StueveContributor IIIFebruary 15, 2013

Generally, Australian football players kick. They grew up playing rugby, so they have a natural ability to kick the ball. In football, they line up for field goals or punt the ball away to the other team. 

Somehow, Alabama's Jesse Williams ended up at nose tackle.

Between his Australian origin, his tattoo-covered body and his mohawk, Williams makes for an interesting study. And the results aren't what you might expect.

As one might expect from an Australian, Williams grew up with minimal exposure to football. He grew up playing basketball and rugby. Eventually, though, Williams began to notice the NFL.

He saw kids wearing NFL jerseys, and he caught a few games on TV. A friend eventually convinced Williams to give football a shot. He tried a variety of positions before settling on middle linebacker.

Williams dominated Australian football, eventually picking up with the country's junior national team, and he earned a scholarship to Hawaii.

So why then, did Williams star at Alabama instead of Hawaii?

Two credits.

The NCAA ruled that Williams was short of a math and English class, and thus ineligible. 

So instead of playing in Hawaii, Williams settled for a junior college, Arizona Western. 

The transition was difficult for him. Williams struggled with the food—he said he felt sick for the first few months—and he didn't understand how a hamburger could be cheaper than fruit.

Williams did like one thing about the United States, however.


Whether it was clothes or food, Williams loved to shop at Walmart. His other favorite consumer location in the United States is Panda Express, the Chinese restaurant. 

Now playing defensive tackle at Arizona Western, Williams was raw. He was a terrific athlete with great strength, feet and quickness. But it wasn't until he played there that Williams began to develop technique. 

By the time Williams' two years at Arizona Western were up, his technique had improved enough that he had over 40 scholarship offers across the country. All the top schools were after him, including Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide.

It was through that recruiting process—an event completely unfamiliar to him—that brought him to Alabama.

Now, Williams has started alongside two National Championship defenses and put himself in the first-round conversation for the 2013 NFL draft.

At Alabama, Williams moved around the defensive line, playing nose tackle or defensive end. His impact at either position was unquestioned, however. Few, if any, players were more important to Alabama's dominant defense.

Williams' sheer strength is demonstrated by a number. Sixty. That's how many bench reps of 225 pounds he plans to do at the NFL Scouting Combine. That would beat the event record by a shocking nine reps.

That's not to say Williams is all power, though. He is athletic enough to go in at fullback in goal line situations, and his ability to move side-to-side is underrated.

The 6'4", 320-pounder may have grown up not knowing about football, but that's hardly evident in his play. His once-raw technique is now refined and among the draft's best.

Former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah had this to say about Williams

Williams is an ideal 3-4 nose tackle. He has a thick, square build and is very tough to move off the line of scrimmage. He plays with excellent knee bend and leverage against the run and is capable of pushing the pocket as a pass rusher. He has decent short-area quickness and will occasionally split double teams to create negative plays. I wouldn't be surprised to see him land in the bottom of the first round with a team in need of a powerful interior defender.

Some were willing to go even further in praising Williams. While Jeremiah stopped short of full praise, ranking Williams as just his No. 7 defensive tackle, Eric Stoner did no such thing.

Stoner is bold enough to rank Williams ahead of star defensive tackles such as Sheldon Richardson and Sharrif Floyd. There are varying opinions, but clearly, there is something to like about the nose tackle.

As a person, Williams is a whole different matter. He's never been in trouble, and his teammates have never said anything bad about him.

Let's let his tattoos explain his personality. On his head, "Fear is a liar". On his left ear, a smiley face. On his right hand, "I stopped checking for the monster under the bed when I realized the monster is me". Right next to his left ear: yolo.

Williams' teammates describe him as "funny", "nice" and "thinking". That would seem to fit with the tattoos. 

It's safe to say that Jesse Williams is a rare human being. It's rare that anyone from Australia makes it to the NFL. It's even more rare for such a player to be so prolific and highly-touted. Even more unusual is when this player doesn't kick, but rather is covered in tattoos and plays nose tackle.

Jesse Williams breaks a few stereotypes.

There is, however, some Australia left in Williams.

He claims he can easily kick a 50-yard field goal.



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