Brandon Williams is used to working for the things he gets. His work has taken him from an underprivileged, single-parent childhood to a record-breaking college football career and, finally, to the NFL.
Perhaps it’s understandable, then, that even after being selected in the third round of the NFL draft and signing a four-year, $2.7 million contract with the Baltimore Ravens, the former Missouri Southern All-American still isn’t letting his guard down.
Williams, a 6-foot-1, 335-pound defensive tackle from an NCAA Division II school, is still trying to show he belongs in the NFL. He recorded six tackles, one sack and a fumble recovery in seven games as a rookie for the Ravens.
“I’m definitely happy,” Williams said. “There’s definitely a time to reflect and a time not to. … I probably don’t reflect as much as most people because I’m still trying to get somewhere. I haven’t arrived anywhere yet. Yes, I’m in the NFL, but I’m not where I want to be yet. So I don’t really have much time to be like ‘Oh wow, yeah, I’m here. I did a good job. I had a pretty good season. I’m good, I’m just going to lay back and just chill ’cause I got it made now.’ I don’t. You know? And I never will, because every year, like I said, there’s another person coming in trying to take your spot, trying to take food out of your kid’s mouth.”
The Ravens waived nine-year NFL veteran defensive lineman Marcus Spears last October. When free agency began last week, former Baltimore defensive tackle Arthur Jones signed a five-year contract with the Indianapolis Colts for a reported $30 million. Terrence Cody, another lineman whose name had been ahead of Williams’, remains a free agent. The Ravens’ online depth chart does not reflect the latter two developments, but undeniably, Williams’ path to extended playing time appears more streamlined heading into year two of his young career.
Even so, he’s keeping his head down.
“All you can control is what you can control,” Williams said. “All you can control is what’s in your bubble. This, free agency, really, it’s up to the team. It’s up to the team you’re on at that point and the other teams. … I just need to make sure I’m in the best physical performance I’m in next year.”
LEARNING HOW TO BE A PRO
Going from a 10- or 11-game schedule in college to a 20-game professional season (including four preseason games) required Williams to learn new methods of physical preparation and recovery. He dealt with a lingering toe injury through the first month of the 2013 season.
Williams credits Baltimore teammates Spears, Jones and Cody, along with five-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Haloti Ngata and others for setting an example.
“We’ve got great veterans and great guys that were there before I got there who taught you all that stuff,” Williams said. “Like you just watch them, they’re good at being pros, that’s what they’ve been doing for eight years, six years, even three or four years. You just watch what they do and see how they work and see how they’re being a pro in the locker room, in the study room, watching film, you see what they do and you kind of mimic that. And then you kind of find your own thing and what works for you and then, you take what they did into what you want to do and you go forward with that.”
A ‘HUMBLE BEAST’
Williams has no shortage of accomplishments. He graduated from Missouri Southern as the school’s all-time sacks leader with 27. He tied for the most repetitions on the bench press with 38 at the 2013 NFL Combine and went on to be the MIAA’s earliest draft pick since 2003. Yet Williams is careful not to get caught up in his accolades.
“I have my times, I have my moments,” he said. “But they’re quick and after that, I got to get back to work. So, I mean, I guess what you could say, I’m a humble beast. I mean, I’m humble when I have to be and I’m humble most of the time, pretty much. And then when it’s on the line, that’s when I speak. That’s when I talk, that’s when I prove to myself, to others who are watching and the opponent across from me.”