It's hard to believe that Minnesota DT Pat Williams signed with Buffalo as a rookie free agent in 1997 and didn't become a full-time starter until the 2001 season. After all, he eventually emerged as one of the best interior run stuffers in the league in Buffalo and earned trips to the past two Pro Bowls after signing with Minnesota in 2005. A deeper look, however, reveals why Williams didn't hear his name called on draft weekend.
Believe it or not, Williams played basketball at Navarro Junior College before transferring to Northeast Oklahoma for a year and then Texas A&M for his final two seasons. The time he spent focused on basketball obviously hindered his progress as a football player and playing only two seasons of Division I-A football watered down his résumé. In addition, Williams steadily added weight to his frame, so he hasn't always been this big. So he was a developmental prospect and the Bills were actually taking a chance when they signed him in 1997.
That chance clearly paid off for both parties. Buffalo's willingness to bring Williams along slowly allowed him to work on his technique and put in the necessary work in the weight room. He repaid the favor by continuing to get stronger at the point of attack without sacrificing the quick feet that he once showed on the basketball court. Once he could anchor against double teams and make plays in the backfield when teams didn't commit two blockers to him, he became one of the most disruptive defensive linemen in the league. Of course, his evolution with the Bills also paved the way for him to sign a lucrative contract with Minnesota in 2005 and he has thrived playing opposite Kevin Williams there.