Notably snubbed from postseason all-star games and the NFL Combine, Darrell Williams is not letting that stop him from making waves among perspective NFL teams.
Williams, arguably the most versatile linebacker on Auburn’s roster during the last two seasons, produced the third-most tackles on the team in 2017 and second-most in 2018. Williams displayed a wide-range of talent from running downhill for run support to dropping back into pass defense.
Despite all that, he saw his name left off all the postseason all-star games and watched six of his Auburn teammates receive invitations to the NFL Combine.
The absence of Williams from those postseason opportunities was a shock to not just Auburn fans, but also to Williams and NFL scouts.
“Really, a lot of people ask me,” Williams said. “Every scout I talk to asks me the same thing, like ‘What’s up with you not being in an all-star game, not being at the combine?’ Mostly, they were shocked that I wasn’t at the combine.”
Without an opportunity to showcase his talent outside of his Auburn tape, Williams knew that Auburn’s pro day would be his best bet. So, Williams set off to Fort Lauderdale to train at Pete Bommarito Performance Systems with an added chip on his shoulder.
“It was shocking for me, but at the same time, as the player I am, I can control what I can control,” Williams said. “After that, really, I’m just focused on training and doing what I can do to better myself as a player to get myself ready for the next level. But at the same time, I was shocked, because I’m confident in myself, confident in my game, confident in what I put out there on film, on the field. So, I was definitely shocked and disappointed, but at the same time, there’s nothing I can do about that but continue to do what I’ve been doing, and that’s get better and improve myself.”
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A main goal for Williams during his training process was to cut some weight. During his senior season, Williams was listed at 240 pounds, and at Auburn’s pro day he was listed at 219.
The weight change was drastic, even catching Williams by surprise.
“My plan was to lean up, but the plan wasn’t really to lose that much weight,” Williams said. “So, I’m shocked, too, as well, but like I said, I went down actually even lower than what that is, and I’ve just been gaining weight back. I’m trying to gain it back. I’m not trying to get too much bigger than what I am now.”
As a hopeful linebacker at the next level, NFL scouts and GMs have told Williams that they would like for him to gain 5 to 8 pounds to have prototypical size.
The loss of weight did help Williams perform with improved movement in the defensive drills on pro day. Williams appeared fluid with his hips when turning to the ball.
During the measurement portion of pro day, Williams got the second-highest vertical and the longest broad jump of players who participated in the pro day. Williams believes the loss of fat and gain of more muscle is what made the difference during his performance.
“Yeah, it was a big difference,” Williams said. “I actually feel better movement-wise, so I guess that helped, as well. I lost more fat and gained a lot more muscle.”
The name of Williams’ game has always been versatility and with the slim weight, it is possible some NFL teams are looking at Williams as a possible linebacker-safety hybrid with his ability to cover receivers and have a presence in the box. The possibility of Williams as a special teams star is also an area in which he could shine at the next level.
That versatility was Williams’ main pitch to NFL teams when they asked him what he could bring to the team.
“They were just like, ‘What are you bringing to the table?’ Basically, what I’m bringing to the table is a versatile linebacker,” Williams said. “And that’s what it’s always been since the day I came in. Every talked about Darrell being versatile, and it’s still that way today. I can play inside, I can play outside. You can move me around on the defense, special teams — on every special teams, you can move me around to any spot.
“Coaches felt good about putting me anywhere and felt I could learn it quick and felt that I could have the attributes to play every position, especially at linebacker. Come off the edge, set the edge, rush off the edge, be an inside backer, take on the blocks, play the run, stop the run, be versatile enough to go out and cover a slot.”
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