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Defensive End Williams Hopes To Be Top Pick

Posted Mar 2, 2015

Leonard Williams, a defensive end out of USC, can play anywhere along the line, and projects to be a Top 5 pick in April’s NFL Draft.

When the 2015 NFL Draft gets underway Thursday, April 30, in Chicago, most believe it won’t be long until defensive end Leonard Williams is taken off the board.

And when that happens, the USC product says he’ll be able to take care of his daughter, as well as his mother, who sacrificed to take care of her own five children under at-times tough circumstances during his adolescence.

“It’s going to mean a lot,” Williams said at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. “My mom was a strong single parent. She took care of five children who were all my size so I’m sure it was hard for her to put a lot of food on the table. She’s a strong woman so hopefully one day I’ll be able to repay her.”

Williams is considered by many to be a lock as a top-five pick in this year’s draft. In his NFL.com profile, he’s described as a “supremely gifted interior lineman with length, athleticism and elite power,” and, at 6-foot-5, 302 pounds, he is “able to jolt offensive linemen with powerful hands and is extremely hard to redirect for offensive linemen once he gets going downhill.”

Over time, Williams developed the nickname “the Big Cat.”

“I think because of my hair,” Williams said of the moniker. “A lot of people call me a Lion and stuff like that. My name is Leo, so ‘Leo the Lion.’ I really don’t know where the nickname came from but I think (maybe from) the announcers that do the game. It’s pretty cool. I took it and ran with it. I like it so far.”

Over the past couple years, Williams has also drawn other nicknames, and most recently was called “J.J. Watt 2.0” by NFL Media columnist Adam Schein.

“One guy I look at a lot is J.J. Watt,” Williams said when asked what players he models his game after. “He’s been one of the best defensive players in the league for the last few years and he’s very versatile like I see myself. When I see the film, I see how the coaches try to make mismatches like they do for him at USC. I try to pattern myself after a lot of things he does.”

Williams’ rise to the top of the draft class is especially impressive considering he didn’t even begin playing football until high school, and said he didn’t really bloom until his sophomore year at USC.

“I actually wasn’t developed at all when I got to high school,” said Williams, who told reporters he was over the weight limit to play Pop Warner football in middle school. “I started as a freshman (at USC). That’s when all the press and hype started coming. Coach (Orgeron) was telling me he was one of the best players I ever coached., Hearing that from a legend coach like that, that’s when I started knowing I could be one of the best d-linemen if I could out my mind to it.”

Now, Williams – who clocked an impressive 4.97-second 40-yard dash as a 300-pounder at the combine – knows he’s fulfilled the hype at the college level, and hopes to continue pushing boundaries as a professional.

After all, he has a family to take care of.

“I definitely want to get her a house,” Williams said of his mother, with a laugh. “Growing up with her, I had to move around a lot. We never really had like a hometown neighborhood because we had so many different houses. I want to get her a house and make her stay there.”

RELATED LINKS:
-- 2015 Free Agency Outlook: Defensive Ends
-- Redskins Sign Defensive End Jean Francois

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