Williams makes big impression at Tide pro day
by Mark Edwards
medwards@annistonstar.com
Mar 13, 2013 | 4423 views |  0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TUSCALOOSA — Alabama has finished its football season, but something hasn’t changed for the Crimson Tide: Australian noseguard Jesse Williams still is the center of attention.

An Alabama fan favorite because of his laid-back personality, tattoos and strength, Williams wowed NFL scouts at Alabama’s first pro day Wednesday with his speed. He ran the 40-yard dash in an unofficial time of 4.9 seconds. By comparison, Tide teammate Michael Williams, a tight end, was timed unofficially at 5.4 seconds.

Jesse Williams is the same guy who caused Internet message boards to melt down in the summer by bench pressing 600 pounds. But on this day, as he and 14 other former Tide players met with scouts from all 32 NFL teams in Alabama’s indoor practice facility, he showed he can move, too.

“Look at his legs,” Alabama defensive end Damion Square said. “Next time you see him, take a picture of his legs. He has sticks supporting a body builder’s top. It works for him.

“But he’s a great athlete, man. He’s going to be great on the next level. The people that get him are going to have a guy that likes to invest in himself and works hard — and a great individual. I’m a fan.”

Not everyone went through every drill. Tide cornerback Dee Milliner (shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum), running back Eddie Lacy (injured hamstring) and defensive end Quinton Dial (toe surgery) didn’t participate.

Alabama center Barrett Jones still isn’t cleared to do any running. He had surgery after the season to repair torn ligaments in his foot, and he still is wearing a walking boot. He lifted weights. Square (surgery to repair torn meniscus in right knee) lifted weights, too, but did no running.

That left the stage open for Jesse Williams, who appears to have an outsider’s chance to make the first round, according to various mock drafts. He didn’t run at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, as he was recovering from postseason arthroscopic knee surgery.

But he did run Wednesday.

“It was a big day for me,” Williams said. “It was not just the 40, but the drills, too. I wanted to show I can move well on my knee. I did the best I can. The knee feels good.”

After the various weightlifting, running and agility drills were completed, scouts from the Detroit Lions and Miami Dolphins put Williams through a more thorough workout. They had him perform drills that more closely resemble what a defensive lineman would do.

Alabama coach Nick Saban, who spent eight years in the NFL as a head coach or assistant, said teams will get a good player in Williams, who didn’t play much football before enrolling at Arizona Western Community College.

“He’s going to continue to get better because he has more upside because he doesn’t have the same background of growing up as a football player like a lot of players we have in our program,” Saban said.

As for other Alabama players, Michael Williams appeared to hurt his chances with his time in the 40-yard dash. He was a three-year starter at Alabama, although he was known mostly as a blocker.

Saban said today’s tight ends in the NFL are asked to be pass-catchers more than in the past, but he added there still should be a place for Williams.

“I still think most NFL teams, at some point in time, know the importance of running the ball, probably even more than college teams do,” Saban said. “I think it’s difficult to run it if you don’t have a good tight end, and Michael is certainly a good blocking tight end.”

Offensive tackle D.J. Fluker showed up at pro day looking slim. The 6-foot-6 Fluker said he has his weight down to 334 pounds. He said he weighed about 344 or 346 pounds at the end of the season.

He said he thought dropping weight has helped him in draft workouts, especially Wednesday.

“I did pretty good,” he said. “Just come out here and working hard. Giving great effort, that’s the main thing. Everybody will say that effort beats talent. That’s me. I have both.”

Sports Editor Mark Edwards: 256-235-3570. On Twitter @MarkSportsStar.

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