By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Brandon Williams’ favorite National Football League team has been the Pittsburgh Steelers.
But not any more.
Williams, a three-time All-American defensive tackle at Missouri Southern, was selected Friday night by the reigning Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens late in the third round of the 78th NFL Draft.
“Relieved. I feel very relieved,” Williams said. “I’m feeling good right now. My family is with me. My friends are with me. I’m a Raven, and I’m going to go up there and give them everything I got and show them that I love being there and I want to play there.”
Williams is expected to compete with Terrence Cody for the starting job in the middle of the Ravens’ defensive line. The Raven defense lost Dannell Ellerbe and Ed Reed to free agency and Ray Lewis to retirement.
“He’s smart, he’s tough,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “For a big man, he’s really an athletic guy. So we’re excited to have him.”
For about 31⁄2 hours, Williams sat inside Sportsman’s Park, watching television while surrounded by family and friends. Shortly after the third round began, Williams was seen talking on the telephone, but it was a call to him on someone else’s phone.
“It’s nerve wracking,” Williams said. “The whole time you’re sitting there, and any little buzz of a phone you feel, anything, you think it’s that call. But then you see it’s a text message or a buddy calling you to see how things are going. You’re like, don’t talk to me now.”
But then around 9 o’clock, Williams got the phone call from the Ravens. Minutes later, the crowd roared when the Ravens’ selection appeared on the television screen.
“I talked to the owner (Steve Bisciotti), general manger (Ozzie Newsome), Coach Harbaugh, the D-line coach (Clarence Brooks),” Williams said. “I heard in their voice they were happy to have me, and I’m happy to be a Raven.”
As the third round wound down, Williams almost accepted that his selection would not happen until Saturday.
“It got really close, but I still kept the faith and still felt like I was going to go,” he said. “I didn’t give up. I didn’t take no for an answer until the clock hit zero and it didn’t. So that was really good.”
Williams said the Ravens were one of the teams that showed the most interest in him.
“They were at my school actually more than most,” he said. “They were there like five times. The same guy came up and said hey to me. We got really acquainted ... I saw him at the Senior Bowl, I saw him at the Combine. They showed a lot of interest.”
Defense was the Ravens’ focus during the first two days of the draft. They picked safety Matt Elam from Florida on the last pick of the first round and traded up six spots to get linebacker Arthur Brown from Kansas State in the second round before getting Williams in the third round.
“We talked about getting stronger up the middle,” Newsome said. “Over the past two days, the picks have definitely addressed the middle of our defense.”
Checking the Ravens’ schedule, a preseason game on Aug. 22 against Carolina will be televised by ESPN, and they play at St. Louis on Aug. 29.
The Ravens then kick off the regular season on Sept. 5 at Denver.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.