TAMPA — Quinnen Williams’ rise from non-starter at Alabama a year ago to top-five draft pick is not that surprising when you consider how hard it is to get on the field playing for the Crimson Tide. No program consistently produces NFL talent right now like Nick Saban.
“I didn’t even know what the NFL draft was until me and Coach Saban talked almost every day after the national championship about what I’m going to do, how I’m going to do, all the different things that go on, the agent talks," Williams said. “He helped me out a lot on this. He gave me the talks about me being mature, me coming out young and the different things coaches are going to say about me, the different things coaches are going to feel about me, about my body size, about me being young, and about me just starting one year. Coach Saban prepped me on all the things like that and just sent me on with a blessing. I feel like I’m blessed to have him in my life and to have him behind me."
According to reports, many teams have the 6-foot-4, 303-pound Williams as the best player in the draft. In his only year as a starter, he recorded eight sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss.
What the Bucs are thinking
It may take a miracle, but the Bucs could not match a better player with their biggest need than Williams. Gerald McCoy is likely out for 2019. A three technique defensive tackle to pair with Vita Vea is needed. Williams is a penetrator, which fits perfectly in Todd Bowles’ defense. It takes two quarterbacks going in the first round — and something else not anticipated — for Williams to be around at No. 5.
Five questions for Quinnen Williams
How motivated are you to be the No. 1 overall pick?
I really haven't thought about being the No. 1 pick. I just want to motivate myself to be the best player I want to be, being the best player I can be with whichever team I can go to.
What is it about your game that we don’t know?
“There's a lot of stuff that I took from Alabama and took from how I was built at Alabama that I'm going to take to the NFL. I got this point of being an NFL draft pick from Alabama. Everything about discipline, everything Coach Saban taught me, everything that Alabama and Coach Saban instilled in me to be the player I am today. So I'm going to take a lot of those things like discipline, attention to detail, how I watch film, my work ethic — just the Alabama standard in general — and take it to the NFL.
Could you have produced like this last year?
Yeah, I could have done this last year if I had the opportunity. But I just had to play my role. We had a lot of guys in front of me who played great football and I just had to fill in and do what was best for the team and what Coach Saban wanted and what the defense wanted, and I just tried to play that role right. This year they gave me a huge opportunity to step up and do more for the team. And I took that challenge and stepped up.
How important is the mental side of the game to you?
I really take the mental side serious about football. It has really become an IQ game now. It all started for me, being small and people dominating me when I was like 270 trying to play nose guard. I didn't know how to play nose guard. I was just trying to get in and I didn't know those double teams were going to come at me like that. So I had to start looking to find something that was going to beat them.
Did you get impatient waiting to play at Alabama?
No, I didn’t really get impatient waiting my turn because I knew the guys in front of me were good. I knew the best players were going to play. And playing at Alabama there’s a lot of great players, but you also have to work your tail off. When I knew Daron Payne was leaving to go first round in the draft, I knew it was my turn. I knew they were going to have to fill in that hole and I wanted that job, and I was determined to play that position.