Playing football at a small school won't get you a guarantee of playing professionally in the NFL , much less being drafted by one of the greatest franchises in NFL history, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Nick Williams a 6 foot 4 inch 317 to 320 pound defensive tackle from tiny little Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama is one of these small school players who will try to defy the odds by trying to land a position with the Steelers after training camp this year.
Many late round picks , especially 7th rounders are classified as "reaches". the sentiment in Pittsburgh seems to be the same as evidenced by this report from the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.
"He doesn't have much experience and is as big a reach as the Steelers have made in the seventh round for a lineman since perhaps a guy named Brett Keisel."
Now, Williams experience on the gridiron is limited as described by the fact he only started playing football just one year in high school(sounds like deja vu here(Cortez Allen)). He did however come into his own his last two years at Samford, earning all-conference honors and leading Samford to a 7-4 win loss record in his senior season. His skill set and measurable earned him a spot at the NFL Combine and caught the attention of Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell. Mitchell after questioned on the pick had this to say .
Coach Mitchell: Nicholas Williams is a young man from Birmingham, Alabama. He went to Samford University right there. Samford is a little liberal arts college right there in Birmingham. This guy was a heck of a basketball player coming out of high school. He only played one year of football. Pat Sullivan, the ex-Heisman trophy winner, is the head football coach there. Pat Sullivan knew his father, and they asked him to go look at his son. As a basketball player, they looked at him. He went to Samford because the guy had good size coming out of high school, and they signed him. He is a young guy. He is not going to come in here and replace anybody. He is probably not going to play. He is a project. But you can't get guys that are 6'4" 320 pounds that can run and look like a guy that is 310 pounds. I like this guy. He didn't dominate right there in Samford. He only started two years there, but I think his football is ahead of him rather than behind him.
Q.)Where will he play? He is going to be a defensive end.
Q.)Have you heard of him before? Yes, Pat Sullivan had talked to me about this kid for about the last year. I am very close with Pat. He is a guy that we have had our eye on for a good while.
Q.)Is it almost easier since he is so raw to teach him your three-four without having to unlearn other things? I don't care what scheme he played in college. When he comes here he is going to do it the Steelers way. He is going to do it the way we want so it doesn't make any difference to me what he did in college. No matter if he was a first round draft choice, they are going to do it our way.
Q.)Did you say he is 320 pounds? He's 320 pounds. When you look at him you are going to think he is about 310. When I was there back in early March he was 317 and he has been as high as 320. He carries his weight very well. This guy was a heck of a basketball player coming out of high school.
Q.)He just played one year of football? One year in high school. He was a starter at Samford for two years. If you watch him on tape you won't get very excited about him. But if you look at him and you look at the potential that he has, he reminds me of when we signed Steve McLendon here. He's a guy that a lot of you guys didn't think would ever play here. He stayed here in this program and he did it our way. He is going to have a chance to be a good football player.
Q.)He's 6'4", 320 pounds? Yes. He's probably 317. He's lost a little weight, but I would say he's 317.
Q.)Does Nicholas Williams know that he won't play this year? Yes, he knows that. This guy wants to come somewhere where he will have the opportunity to play down the road. He knows that he only played one year of high school football and Samford is a small university where he started two years. He's excited about having the chance to play pro football in an organization like the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Q.)Was Williams at the combine? Yes. He was at the combine.
Q.)Is he the kind of guy who you wanted to take in the seventh round? What you have to look at as a coach is I don't know how many guys you're going to get next year in the seventh round that are going to be 6'4", 320 that can run. You go back, we took Brett Keisel in the seventh round. Brett Keisel was not 320. Here's a guy that can run. He came here, he played on the special team and when he got a chance to play, he picked up our scheme, did well, the rest is history. I look at this guy, he knows he's not going to play. He's a guy that I like. I think with some coaching, being around other good football players, he's smart enough. Samford is a smart school academically, he's already graduated. I think this guy has tremendous upside. I'm excited about him.
If Williams can be coached and progress into a defensive end as sated by Mitchell, the Steelers may have found themselves a diamond that with the proper polishing (coaching) can become a shining star . If he can be as productive as Keisel has been for us , then I believe all of Steeler Nation will be happy . GO STEELERS!!!!!!!