Cheesehead TV had the opportunity to attend the press conference with fifth-round draft choice D.J. Williams of Arkansas at the NFL Combine. Here’s what he had to say…
Q: Can you talk about your background and how that kind of made you the player you are?
WILLIAMS: “My background was pretty much like sandpaper. It was really rough. But after that sandpaper wore out, my family came out smooth. I’ve learned a lot from it. Pretty much I’m almost thankful for what we went through because now I appreciate pretty much all I get in life. I’m very thankful for what my mother did for me, and almost every time I get to that breaking point, all I have to do is think of her and I keep going.”
Q: You mention that you want to play H-back at the next level, but do you feel like you can play on the line as well and hold your point in the run game?
WILLIAMS: “Yes I do. I got caught up in my sophomore year at Arkansas in catching 60-plus balls a season and I got real excited, and really didn’t excel in blocking. And Coach (Arkanas head coach Bobby) Petrino didn’t like that one bit. And so I worked real hard going into my junior year in becoming a better blocker. And my senior year I kind of put two and two together and became a complete tight end. Hats off to Coach Petrino; he gave me the right mindset and mentality to become not just a pass-catching tight end, but a run blocker as well.”
Q: What were your measurables?
WILLIAMS: “6-2, 245. I was proud. I grew an inch since the Senior Bowl (laughs).”
Q: Did you play at 245 during the season?
WILLIAMS: “I played at 235, but with my nutrition plan, I started trying to gain the weight the right way, and it’s working out great and I feel good at this weight.”
Q: Is the ability to block one of the questions that GMs and coaches have about you?
WILLIAMS: “I like to ask questions. They ask me a lot of questions, too. So I fire right back at them, and ask them what they want from me. A lot of teams say the player they want to end up drafting is the player that they see on film. And I tell them time after time that I have that attitude.
“I’m not that player that when they hear that you’ve got to lead block against Ray Lewis – I’ll say this now because I don’t see him across from me – but the attitude is, ‘Okay, let’s go do it. We’re out here playing football. This is what we do.’ So my attitude is right in becoming that blocker. But a lot of them do say that they see me as the route runner and that H-back position, and that’s where they want to play me at. But I’m open to do anything.”
Q: You think speed is something that could set you apart at your position?
WILLIAMS: “I do want to say that I’ve come here wanting to run a good 40 time to show you that a big boy can roll a little bit. I’m probably not as tall as these 6-6 tight ends here, but that hasn’t stopped me yet, and I’m not going to let it stop me. I’m just going to keep working hard, and work with what I got.”
Q: Considering what you’ve been through, when you get to the NFL do you think you can help some young kids who have experienced the same thing?
WILLIAMS: “Definitely. That’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, to put myself in a position to help kids out that are in a position I was in when I was young. That situation is very tough, and I can only imagine how hard it was for my mother. And that’s something that I want to help out with too, and that is the mothers in this situation.
“I was a college kid struggling to pay my water bill on time, and she was a single mother who moved away with nothing, raising three kids and starting from scratch. And it blows my mind how she’s brought me and my sisters to where we are now.”
Q: A lot of people are comparing you to Dustin Keller just because of your athleticism and your productivity in college at Arkansas, are you concerned about that comparison? Do you like it?
WILLIAMS: “You’ve got to like it because he’s very successful in the NFL. I like watching him play, his style. He’s that type of person who can get down field and run amazing routes. He can cause a mismatch against a slower linebacker or a smaller DB. And he has the ability to get on the line of scrimmage and block, too. I enjoy watching him play, and that’s not a bad comparison at all. It’s a very good one.”
Q: Who’s better catching balls out of the backfield, you or Peyton Hillis?
WILLIAMS: “He was my mentor my freshman year because he went to Arkansas as well. I guess I have to say me. But Peyton’s a phenomenal athlete. What he’s doing in the NFL is what I knew he was going to do the whole time. He proved a lot of people wrong. He’s just a hard worker, and he’s always been like that.”
Q: What did you learn from him?
WILLIAMS: “Well, if I had hair to put gel in it, because if you ever see Peyton he’s always gelled up and dressed real nice. So just look good at what you do.”
Q: Any question from coaches, GMs or scouts that kind of threw you off?
WILLIAMS: “There was, ‘What would I rather be, a cat or a dog?’ I was about to jump off and say dog, and then I thought about who’s the kind of the jungle, and then I said cat. They didn’t specify what kind of cat, so I’m a big cat, a lion. So I picked cat.”
Q: What was it like playing with Ryan Mallet, and what kind of player was he?
WILLIAMS: “Ryan is a great player. I feel real bad because of what some people have to say about Ryan with his attitude off the field. A lot of people when they see people succeed at things, they try to find the faults in them. Ryan had his public intox when he was a freshman or a sophomore, but he’s grown up so much during the time he’s been at Arkansas.
“He’s understood the importance of being a class act on and off the field. And I think whoever picks him up first is going to get a steal if he’s not picked with the first overall pick.”
Q: Are you surprised that it’s happened like this in terms of the people with the negative perceptions?
A: “Yeah. I talked to him yesterday on the phone and we got to talking about it. Like I said, I just feel sorry for him because people are going to hear that in the media and start assuming things, and that’s not Ryan. He’s grown up so much. He’s given back, and he understands the opportunity he has at hand, and he doesn’t want to mess it up for anything. And to put that on the table with how much talent he has as an athlete, it’s unbelievable – as a quarterback. He can’t run that fast. He’s not the best athlete in the world, but when it comes to throwing, he’s the best in the country at it. And like I said, whoever doesn’t pick him is going to regret it. ”