Pro day notebook: Jesse Williams runs well

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- All 325 pounds were packed snuggly into a muscle shirt and tights. It crouched down, waited for the whistle and took off in a sprint: 4.90 seconds to travel 40 yards.

And just like that, nose guard Jesse Williams stole the show at Alabama's pro day. For a 6-foot-3 interior lineman who was previously hobbled by a knee injury, he ran surprisingly well. Only a handful of linemen broke the 5.0-second mark at the NFL combine, and most of them were defensive ends.

"I felt like I did pretty good," said Williams, his head shaved to no doubt cut his 40 time by a fraction of a second, also known as the difference in millions of dollars in the NFL. "I was just trying to get everything going. It's tough. After running those 40s I was gassed."

Williams said it felt good to run without the knee bothering him. He was smiling even before he was told what his time was in the 40-yard dash.

"That's pretty good, I mean anything under 5 seconds," he said. "I weighed in at 325. It felt like I was moving pretty fast. The hardest part was trying to stop before running into you guys."

Most had looked forward to seeing Williams compete in was the bench press. There was talk he would break the NFL combine record for total reps last month but he finished in the 30s instead, well short of the high-water mark. Williams, though, didn't try to better than number, saying he was happy with where he was leading up to the draft. He had other questions to answer, he explained.

"I didn't need to," he said. "I'm more worried about running. Everyone knew I was strong already. I mean I benched 600 pounds. I'm trying to show people how I can move for my size."

"They asked how my knee was and I think I showed today that it's been pretty good."

Given the way he ran, it's hard to argue with that assessment. Healthy or not, not many expected him to post the kind of numbers he did.

Center Barrett Jones watched his former teammate from afar on Wednesday. While some may have been surprised by Williams' talent running in the drills, Jones wasn't one of them. The two went head-to-head for two years and he wasn't the least bit shocked to see the hulking nose guard moving so well.

"I knew how athletic he was," Jones said. "I've blocked him for a long time. He's really athletic and it looks like he put up some good numbers. Whoever gets him is getting a really good player."

Jones focusing on what he can control

Jones will continue to be hobbled by a left foot injury for the next few months, but that didn't keep him from participating in pro day. Wearing a boot over his foot, he turned in 27 reps at the bench press, a solid number for a center by any measurement. It would have put him within the top 20 offensive linemen at the NFL combine in Indianapolis last month.

Still, Jones thought he could have done better, joking that the boot robbed him of five or six more reps.

"I think I got 29 and they counted two off or something," Jones said. "I wanted to get 30 but I was close. I was pleased with that. I've been working out hard and I think that was a good number."

Jones said he likely won't do any more workouts prior to the draft. He told reporters he won't be cleared by doctors until May and will instead use the time until then to meet with NFL general managers and scouts.

"I'm just focusing on controlling the things I can control. That's interviewing well," he explained, adding that he hopes to be drafted as a center but is welcome to playing elsewhere. "I have 50 games of tape out there, so hopefully they watch those."


Alabama head coach Nick Saban not only addressed his team's draft prospects on Wednesday, but that of the entire league.

"I read somewhere that 70 guys came out early for the draft this year and 40 of them came out of our league," he said. "That's an indication of the quality of players we have and the quality competition and the fact that we had six teams in the BCS top 10 at the end of the season is another indication of the great programs we have and the great competition we have in our league, which certainly helps develop players."