The war paint might have given him away. Maybe it was the Mohawk. Regardless, it was not hard to notice the 320 plus pounds of nasty lined up on defense in Tuscaloosa every Saturday this past season.
Jesse Williams, an Australian born rugby star, endeared himself to players and fans alike with his quirky personality and all-out attitude. Williams doesn’t just look like an NFL player, though, he plays like one. In his two years at the University of Alabama, he flashed absolute brilliance lining up at multiple positions in Nick Saban’s 3-4 defense. For most players, an appearance in the BCS National Championship is the pinnacle of their football career.
It is hard to even imagine playing on a stage of that magnitude, because victory brings immortality. Champions live on in NCAA history for eternity. The losers, on the other hand, are soon forgotten left reminiscing of what could have been. It’s a great deal of pressure for the young men involved, and that is why NFL scouts across the league study every snap of the game in great detail. Teams across the league preach having a championship attitude. Just saying the words feels cliché, but it is important to know how players will respond in the "big game." There are endless instances where players play at a pro bowl level throughout the regular season, and completely disappear in the playoffs.
It is for this reason that scouts everywhere were giddy to see Alabama play (and win) their second national championship in as many years. The amount of pro talent on their roster was staggering (particularly on the defensive side of the ball) but it still takes a great deal of character to live up to the hype placed on Alabama’s shoulders. At the center of this talent stockpile was Jesse Williams. There is absolutely nothing delicate about Jesse Williams’ game. This is a man of brute force as his 600 pound bench press may indicate. At 6’4" and 325 pounds, Williams epitomizes the words "big nasty." He has experience at both the 3-4 defensive end and tackle positions, but many feel he also projects well to a four man front. He has amazing agility for a man of his size as his 4.94 40 yard dash time indicates, though he doesn’t offer much in the way of a pass rush.
He collapses the pocket with great consistency, however, and he often took on multiple blockers freeing up other players to get to the backfield. Jesse Williams’ junior season was his first as a starter at the University of Alabama. The Crimson Tide began the season ranked #1 in every major poll. Their defense was projected to be one of the best in the nation. Several starters had returned on both sides of the ball, and the eyes of the nation were squarely focused on Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide had a target on their backs. Williams embraced the pressure posting 24 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, and 0.5 sacks from the 5 technique position. He did, however, kick inside to the nose on most passing downs due to his agility and ability to collapse the pocket. Alabama went on to win the national championship and finished with one of the top ranked defenses in the country.
They embarrassed LSU in their long anticipated National Championship matchup 21-0. Alabama’s defense allowed a pitiful 39 rushing yards and 53 net passing yards to LSU. That certainly would have been enough for most people, but Williams was far from done. He would spurn the draft and return for his senior season. Alabama lost several starters on both sides of the ball to the NFL draft prior to the 2012 season. If they were to repeat, it would have to be on the shoulders of their defense once again. Not only did Williams embrace the pressure of being a national champion (and looking to repeat), he began the 2012 season with a position change. He kicked inside permanently to the nose guard position and anchored the #1 defense in the country on his way to second-team All-SEC honors.
The Crimson Tide steamrolled the competition week in and week out finishing the regular season undefeated. Williams finished the season with career bests in tackles (37) and sacks (1) and managed to add 2.5 tackles for loss and a blocked kick. The Crimson Tide was pitted against undefeated Notre Dame for the BCS National Championship and yet again throttled their opponent defeating the Fighting Irish 42-14. Williams finished his college career a two-time BCS National Champion. In the 5th round, with the 137th overall selection, the Seattle Seahawks selected Jesse Williams.
For Seattle, he brings a great deal of scheme versatility as well as a mighty following. Williams has made NFL fans out of nearly the entire continent of Australia as nations of people are now clamoring for Sundays of war paint and Mohawks. He joins a defensive tackle rotation which includes Brandon Mebane, Clinton MacDonald, Tony McDaniel, Jaye Howard, and Michael Bennett, as well as fellow rookie 3rd round draft pick Jordan Hill. Despite the crowd, Williams is sure to bring his own unique physicality and championship mentality to this exciting young team.