2015 DRAFT GUIDE
Going back to school led to NFL dreams

By ARNIE STAPLETON - AP Pro Football Writer
    2013-04-26 19:01

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) - Sylvester Williams took an unconventional path to the NFL.

An enigma as both a late-bloomer and a quick study, Williams started just one football game in high school in Jefferson City, Mo., where he admittedly wasn't much of a student or an athlete.

He twice got kicked off the basketball team for poor grades and eventually was expelled for ditching too many classes.

After high school, Williams went to work in a factory making radiator parts and $400 a week, good money for a 19-year-old. But the thought of hearing those whistles announcing lunch and cigarette breaks for the next four decades got him to thinking about giving the gridiron and the classroom another shot.

``I started getting a feeling that I could play football in my future sometime and I really wanted to go back to school and get a degree,'' Williams recounted Friday after donning a Broncos cap at team headquarters.

While punching a clock, all those hours in the classroom or on the football field didn't seem so bad, after all.

His life took a turn one weekend in the fall of 2008 when he and his high school strength coach went to Lawrence, Kan., to watch a friend play for the Jayhawks in their game against Texas Tech.

While waiting for him afterward, Williams realized he was looking eye-to-eye with all the behemoth linemen who had looked so much bigger to him on TV.

He started thinking that could be him.

``I realized they were around the same size and height as me. I realized I had an opportunity to play and I thought I had the ability so I thought I'd give it a try,'' Williams said.

He was pushing 370 pounds by the time he showed up - unannounced, uninvited and unwanted - at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas, where coach Darian Dulin had taken one look at his high school tape and told him not to bother.

He promised to work hard and Dulin gave him that second chance that made all the difference.

After soaking up instruction and sunshine that spring and summer, Williams entered the fall weighing in at 315 pounds and Dulin put him on scholarship.

``When I went to Coffeyville, I told them I'm going to start a new life,'' Williams said. ``I went in there and gave them everything I had in the classroom as well as on the field. It paid off; I worked hard every day and did exactly what the coaches told me. It helped me get to where I am today.''

By the time his two years at Coffeyville were up, recruiters were lining up at his door. No longer did he have to go begging for a shot but instead found himself sifting through several scholarship offers from all the big schools salivating over this late-bloomer.

Williams chose North Carolina, where he collected a combined 96 stops, 20 1/2 tackles for loss and 8 1/2 sacks the last two seasons.

On Friday night, the Broncos chose the 24-year-old with the 28th overall pick.

From punching a time clock to hitting the tackling sleds, it's been both a long, winding journey and a fast rise for the quick 6-foot-2, 313-pound defensive tackle whom the Broncos envision collapsing the pocket from the middle, helping pass-rusher Von Miller get to the quarterback.

``Well, I think that's a reason for his maturity,'' Broncos coach John Fox said of Williams' unconventional path to the pros. ``The guy kind of understands what a blessing it is to have that kind of ability. He's going to try to make the most of it.''

All the stops on his journey have helped him become one of the best players in a draft deep on linemen.

``I worked at that factory, and I know exactly what it's like to do that, and that's where I never want to be at again in my life,'' Williams said. ``This is the first step to better my future. I thank the Denver Broncos and I promise you all I'm going to continue to work hard because I've been like that for my whole life.

``I worked in that factory, and it showed me what hard work really is. Being able to play football as a job is a blessing.''

And the Broncos consider themselves fortunate that Williams slipped down the draft board, which scuttled any plans to trade out of the first round for a second straight year.

``We've been looking for a young anchor on the inside for a long, long time and we really believe we have found him,'' Broncos boss John Elway said.

The last defensive lineman selected with the team's top pick was Trevor Pryce, also at No. 28, in 1997, and Pryce went on to become a four-time Pro Bowler.

``This guy is a little better than Trevor,'' Elway said. ``Trevor was more of a pass rush, lighter type, quicker guy. Sylvester is very quick and sudden ... I tell you: I hope he has the career that Trevor had. Then we'll be in good shape.''

---

AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton can be reached at http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Richard RodgersJul 1 05:03p

Green Bay Packers TE Richard Rodgers could see more playing time in 2015, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. Rodgers played 528 snaps, while fellow TE Andrew Quarless played [ More ]

Rob HouslerJun 30 03:13p

Cleveland Browns TEs Gary Barnidge, Rob Housler and Jim Dray could all end up taking over for TE Jordan Cameron, who is now with the Miami Dolphins. Head coach [ More ]

Sam BradfordJun 29 05:22p

Philadelphia Eagles QB Sam Bradford (knee) is expected to be in the final phase of his rehabilitation from a torn anterior cruciate ligament once training camp begins. Bradford's second [ More ]

Charles JohnsonJun 29 02:02p

Minnesota Vikings WR Charles X. Johnson appears to have everything it takes to produce in the NFL, according to offensive coordinator Norv Turner. 'He's got great work ethic, and [ More ]

C.J. SpillerJun 28 09:02p

New Orleans Saints RB C.J. Spiller has a perfect skill-set for head coach Sean Payton's system, which relies on getting the ball to players in space, according Chris Wesseling [ More ]

Tony MoeakiJun 25 07:12p

Atlanta Falcons TE Tony Moeaki will compete with TE Jacob Tamme for the Falcons' starting tight end job during training camp. QB Matt Ryan praised both tight ends for [ More ]

Kelvin BenjaminJun 25 03:52p

Carolina Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin's reported weight gain this offseason is being overblown, according to general manager Dave Gettleman. Gettleman expects Benjamin to be ready to go for training [ More ]

Antoine CasonJun 25 03:03a

Free-agent CB Antoine Cason (foot) will miss the 2015 season due to surgery he underwent on Tuesday, June 23. Cason (Ravens) did not specify what type of surgery he [ More ]

Marvin JonesJun 24 09:13p

Cincinnati Bengals WR Marvin Jones (ankle, foot) did not play in 2014 due to multiple foot and ankle issues, but he is healthy and was impressive in organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp.

Keith WenningJun 24 02:43p

Free-agent QB Keith Wenning (Ravens) signed with the Cincinnati Bengals Wednesday, June 24. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Pierre GarconJun 24 02:23p

Washington Redskins WR Pierre Garcon could be featured more often in the passing game this season based on the offseason workouts. Garcon often lined up to the right of [ More ]

Martavis BryantJun 24 01:43p

Pittsburgh Steelers WRs Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant are expected to compete for the No. 2 wide receiver job during training camp. Both players performed well during offseason workouts.

Peyton ManningJun 24 11:53a

Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning was the subject of preliminary trade discussions with the Houston Texans, according to a source. The talks occurred before Manning restructured his deal and [ More ]

Rueben RandleJun 24 10:53a

New York Giants WR Rueben Randle was the best receiver on the field by a wide margin during spring practices, in the opinion of beat writer Jordan Ranaan. Randle [ More ]

Chris IvoryJun 24 10:43a

New York Jets RB Chris Ivory is listed as the starting running back entering training camp, according to beat writer Rich Cimini's unofficial depth chart. RB Bilal Powell is [ More ]

Devonta FreemanJun 23 10:22a

Atlanta Falcons RB Devonta Freeman enters training camp ahead of RB Tevin Coleman on the depth chart.

Joseph RandleJun 23 10:02a

Dallas Cowboys RB Joseph Randle appears to be the clear leader at running back, and it's his job to lose in training camp.

Ahmad BradshawJun 22 11:32p

Free-agent RB Ahmad Bradshaw (Colts) has been suspended one game for violation of the league's substance abuse policy. If he signs with a team he must sit out for the first week.

Terrelle PryorJun 22 04:33p

Cincinnati Bengals WR Terrelle Pryor was claimed off waivers by the Cleveland Browns Monday, June 22, according to a source.

Fred DavisJun 19 06:02p

New England Patriots TE Fred Davis was released Friday, June 19.

Dennis PittaJun 19 02:22p

Baltimore Ravens TE Dennis Pitta (hip) was not medically cleared to practice in minicamp as he continues to recover from his second dislocated and fractured hip in as many [ More ]

Isaiah CrowellJun 19 01:22p

Cleveland Browns RB Isaiah Crowell could be the workhorse back if his ball security improves, according to offensive coordinator John DeFilippo.

Devonta FreemanJun 19 01:12p

Atlanta Falcons RB Devonta Freeman will be used in a lot of different ways, including as a receiver, according to head coach Dan Quinn. 'I knew Devonta had terrific [ More ]

Chris OgbonnayaJun 19 11:32a

Free-agent RB Chris Ogbonnaya (Giants) announced his retirement Friday, June 19.

John MoffittJun 18 11:02p

Free-agent OG John Moffitt unretired Wednesday, June 17, and cleared waivers Thursday, June 18. He is free to sign with a team of his choosing. The Philadelphia Eagles, Miami [ More ]

Terrelle PryorJun 18 09:32p

Free-agent QB Terrelle Pryor is going to give it a shot at playing wide receiver in the NFL. Some teams have already expressed an interest.

Allen RobinsonJun 18 09:22p

Jacksonville Jaguars WR Allen Robinson was described as 'unbelievable' by QB Blake Bortles Thursday, June 18. 'He's definitely a threat now in the red zone. ... He's physical. He [ More ]

Terrelle PryorJun 18 05:32p

Cincinnati Bengals QB Terrelle Pryor was waived Thursday, June 18.

Taylor ThompsonJun 18 05:32p

Tennesse Titans TE Taylor Thompson was waived Thursday, June 18.

Matthew MulliganJun 18 04:32p

Free-agent TE Matthew Mulligan (Titans) signed an undisclosed contract with the Buffalo Bills Thursday, June 18.

Carlton MitchellJun 18 04:22p

Free-agent WR Carlton Mitchell (Buccaneers) signed an undisclosed contract with the Atlanta Falcons Thursday, June 18. WR Shane Wynn was waived.

Daniel ThomasJun 18 04:12p

Free-agent RB Daniel Thomas (Dolphins) signed a one-year contract with the Chicago Bears Thursday, June 18. Financial terms were not disclosed.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2015 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group