By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Kickoff for the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., is still one day away, but for Missouri Southern defensive tackle Brandon Williams, it’s already mission accomplished.
“I knew what I had to do when I got here — prove to the scouts and the NFL that I belong,” Williams said Thursday night in a telephone interview. “I feel like I definitely completed my mission. It’s the game of football. It’s if you can play or not. I felt I could play and I proved that.
“Every (NFL) team has talked to me, and every team has shown interest. They all have come up to me multiple times with different questions, getting more information. They sat and chatted with me, to feel me out.”
Williams, officially measured at 6-foot-1, 341 pounds after his arrival in Mobile last Saturday, is on the North team, which is coached by Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen.
The Senior Bowl is set for 3 p.m. Saturday and will be televised on the NFL Network.
In some ways, the game is not as important as the three padded practices the players held in front of representatives from all 32 NFL teams.
“Everything is important,” said Williams, one of three Division II players in the game, “but when you get to practice, the one-on-ones and the team sessions, going mano-a-mano, that’s the biggest thing. The teams want to see you play, see the hustle in practice, see you being coached. Most of the scouts do leave after the last padded practice on Wednesday, but they will still scout the game on Saturday to see how you do.
“My best practice was on Wednesday. I hadn’t practiced or played since the early part of November, our last game against Pittsburg State. Monday was a little get-the-rust-off day. Tuesday was a little better, and then Wednesday I let it all loose and let it go and had my best practice. To me, that was when I proved hands down — no questions asked — I belong.”
Thursday’s activities included hospital visits in Mobile and a banquet.
“Seeing those kids put things in perspective,” Williams said. “They are fighting a battle every day with cancer.
“We’re fighting something we can see, the person in front of us. They are fighting something that’s inside their body, and it’s just hard to take. My heart goes out to those kids.”
After the Senior Bowl, Williams will turn his attention toward the NFL Combine next month in Indianapolis.