Ravens rookie Brandon Williams turned a challenging job into training ground

May 04, 2013|By Aaron Wilson, The Baltimore Sun

The grind of being an NFL nose guard is embraced by Ravens rookie Brandon Williams, a heavyweight defensive lineman accustomed to dirty work and life's hardships.

Before emerging as a draft sleeper from Division II Missouri Southern, Williams spent last summer hauling and cleaning portable toilets.

"Sometimes, you got a little poop on you," said Williams, the Ravens' third-round pick (94th overall). "Every time I was doing that, I said to myself, 'I gotta work harder, I'm not doing this the rest of my life.' It motivated me to get better."

Rather than complain about the task, Williams transformed the humble job into part of his exercise regimen. He would pretend he was lifting an offensive lineman while hoisting the bulky toilets onto the flatbed of his pickup truck.

"I acted like I was playing football," Williams said. "I just made it fun."

Missouri Southern head coach Darryl Daye said it's another example of Williams' work ethic fostered by his mother, who regularly worked two jobs to support her two sons.

"We like to say, 'Brandon is crap house strong,'" Daye said. "No job is too small for him. He's what you want your son to be like: honest and true blue, a pleasure to coach. Brandon came up really rough, but he never let anything stand in his way. His mother is a very old-school, stern woman who raised him to be a Christian and to always have that humble mentality."

Growing up in Kirkwood, Mo., Williams was raised by his mother, Shelly Washington. A single parent, she toiled away on factory lines and drove a bus.

For roughly six months while Williams was a freshman in high school, the family was homeless. They stored most of their belongings in their car, finding places to stay with various family members until their economic situation improved.

"Technically, we were homeless because we didn't have our own place," Williams said. "It was so tough, but my mom dealt with everything and she told me not to worry about it and just focus on school and sports. It grounded me, and I never forget where I came from. The long road is a great road to travel because it makes you appreciate everything you've got.

"My mom was the rock and the glue that held us together. She's loving every minute of this now. She cried when she saw my name go across the screen during the draft. We hugged and embraced and I told her I'm proud to be her son. As a kid, you dream about this."

Coming out of Rockwood Summit High School, Williams was a partial academic qualifier. He enrolled at Harmony Prep in Cincinnati for a prep school year to improve his chances for a college scholarship.

"With what my family was going through, my mind was elsewhere at times and my grades slipped for a while because of that," Williams said. "I dug myself such a hole as a freshman. I wasn't thinking about college at first because none of my family had gone to college."

Williams would go on to become a three-time All-American named the Division II Defensive Player of the Year. Williams piled up 182 career tackles and 25 sacks.

"I'm very proud, I'm still in the stratosphere," Washington said. "I'm still being bombarded by congratulation calls from friends and family in amazement. It's been a whirlwind, it's a great ride.

"I worked a long time and I taught him to be a hard-working young man. I've done every kind of job because it wasn't negotiable. It had to be done and I didn't complain. That's what we're all about."

Under the NFL rookie slotting system, Williams will sign a four-year contract worth roughly $2.698 million that includes a $515,000 signing bonus.

He looks forward to supporting his family after his girlfriend, Alyssa Karel, gave birth to their son, Ryder, last September prior to the Central Missouri game.

"I want to make sure everybody is comfortable and spread the love," Williams said.

Williams is looking forward to his son's christening, and his own upcoming baptism.

"He's so proud of his son, and I know he's going to be a fantastic father," Washington said. "He loves his son to death."

At 6-foot-1, 335 pounds with a massive upper body, Williams bench pressed 225 pounds 38 times at the NFL scouting combine and registered a 29 1/2 inch vertical leap and an 8-6 broad jump.

Williams has become something of an Internet sensation with a YouTube video going viral of him walking several yards on his hands.

"The guy can put both elbows above a basketball rim and he can dunk a basketball any way you want him to," Daye said. "He's so explosive. Brandon has got that quickness off the ball that you don't expect. He's got an impressive big body. When he's in a T-shirt, people notice because he's got so much muscle mass and is super strong.

"The first time I saw him on the hoof was on film out of high school. He was an incredible looking kid. I saw this big cat on his feet all the time. Nobody could knock him down. When they did, he would pop right back up. The guy's an athlete."

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