Exclusive: Interview with Alabama’s Tim Williams
A potential first-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft, Alabama EDGE rusher Tim Williams took time out of his busy predraft schedule to speak with us exclusively here at Draft Breakdown. Williams leaves Alabama for the NFL with two National Championship appearances and 20.0 sacks to his name. In our interview, Williams talks about his failed drug tests and why he decided to be transparent with teams on the topic, why he’s glad he wasn’t labeled a combine workout warrior, the art of pass rushing, playing for coach Saban and more.
Thanks for joining me today Tim.
Williams: Thanks for having me.
You decided to return to Alabama despite posting double digit sacks in 2015. You were definitely ready to enter the draft last season. Why did you return in 2016?
Williams: I decided to return because I wanted to win another championship. I wasn’t interested in any individual awards or accolades. I just wanted to help bring my team back to the National Championship and hopefully win it all again. I’m all about winning rings.
I imagine you were pretty disappointed with the outcome of the final this year.
Williams: We made it to that point and we were undefeated. We lost to Clemson but it was a great season. We finished the SEC off undefeated and went into the National Championship game undefeated. We just couldn’t bring it home.
You’re an explosive player on tape, but your 40 yard dash time of 4.68 didn’t really match that. Why do you think that was?
Williams: That’s something that’s not done on the football field. For me to get to the quarterback, my 10-yard split is a lot more important, and I believe I had one of the fastest 10-yard splits among all pass rushers. I didn’t get myself down regarding my 4.68 time. 40 yard dashes, vertical jumps, broad jumps – we’re not gonna’ be doing that out there on the football field.
When that helmet goes on and the shoulder pads come on, put that film on and that’s when you see who’s a dog and who’s not a dog. I know a lot of guys that run fast that are soft. I know guys that can put up 25 reps on the bench press but can’t shed their man. Being a workout warrior at the combine was never a big thing to me.
My Saturday’s at Alabama, whoever was in front of me knew they weren’t getting a window dresser. I don’t jump over cars or anything cute like that. No, you’re gonna’ get a football player.
I actually interviewed your teammate Dalvin Tomlinson recently. I asked him which teammate he would bring to war with him if he could only bring one and he said Ryan Anderson. Who would you bring?
Williams: I’d bring Ryan also. Dalvin said the right name. Ryan may never be the fastest player, he might not have the longest arms or biggest hands in the measurements, but Ryan’s got heart. Ryan is a football player. When he puts those shoulder pads on, I don’t know many guys that are gonna’ beat Ryan with effort. I don’t know anybody who’s gonna’ continuously beat Ryan to the ball and things like that. Ryan gives 100% effort on every play, no matter what. We could be in the fourth quarter with a minute left and we’re beating a team by 30 points, Ryan is still giving the same effort. He’s the same way in practice also. Ryan gained a lot of people’s respect in practice alone. Ryan never loafs and he’s always running to the ball. He’s always one of the first guys in the meeting room and one of the first guys in the weight room. Ryan does the little things that some people just don’t understand.
That’s some high praise for your teammate. If we took a sneak peek at your pre-game playlist, what would we find?
Williams: A lot of Lil’ Boosie and Webbie. You’ll find some Biggie, some Tupac. A little bit of Wu-Tang Clan, some DMX. I’m an old school cat, I like some of that old school hip-hop. There’s definitely some JAY-Z and Nas as well.
I want to talk about your pass rush arsenal. Do you have a move in particular that’s your favorite?
Williams: I like using my long arms. I really get off the ball fast. I’m gonna’ get off the ball so fast that you’re gonna’ turn your shoulders and once I stick my long arms in there, he’s already gonna’ be off balance. I can spin off of it, I can dip-and-rip off of it, push-pull, punch across his chest. I’m blessed to have long arms and I love sticking them in there. I use that to create separation and to get the linemen to stop his feet. He might think that I’m gonna’ try to bull-rush him. I can be physical, but I’m also finesse. I’ve spun off linemen with some long arms. I just love to stick my long arms into their chests.
Williams uses his long arms to deliver a powerful initial punch into the chest of his opponents.
Spoken like a true sack artist. Do you think mind games are apart of pass rushing? How can you get the upper hand pre-snap?
Williams: I like to look him right in his eyes. Is he timid, is he hesitant? Once I get into my stance, I’m looking to see if he’s light or heavy on his feet. Once I get him to react off me, he already lost. That’s my main goal, to get him to react off what I do. I like to go up there and be violent. I don’t already have my first and second move in place. I step up to him with confidence. I’m confident in my arsenal. I like to play chess games with him. He might feel like I’m gonna’ continue going outside or inside based on how I line up. I might tilt to the B-gap to get him to think I’m gonna’ run a stunt but I’m quickly gonna’ get off that and run a hoop instead. I always play mind games. Sometimes I might rush from a two-point stance, sometimes I might rush from a three-point stance. You never know. I think I’m one of the only edge defenders in this draft that can rush from both a two-point and a three-point stance. That’s always been a plus for me, it’s always been an advantage.
While it’s Williams’ speed to turn the corner that instills fear into his opponents, he also flashes the ability to counter inside.
Speaking of rushing from different stances, do you think you’re a 4-3 DE or a 3-4 OLB?
Williams: I can play both. I’m comfortable with any scheme. That was demanded from me at Alabama. Some people saw me rush more than drop in coverage because that was what my team needed me to do to win games, to win the SEC Championship and to win one National Championship. I was willing to do whatever it takes. I used to drop in coverage all the time in practice. That’s what I had to do in order to learn the playbook, that’s what was required of me. When it comes down to game play and stuff like that, I had to do what needed to be done, whatever my coaches asked of me. I was never that guy who complained about what was asked of me. I never complained about rushing or playing in coverage. Whichever team drafts me, I can play in a 4-3 with my hand in the dirt, or I can stand up and play in a 3-4. I can even be a hybrid guy or a rush end. It doesn’t matter. I can do it all.
We’ve seen Williams’ ability to be versatile, but he does a lot of his best work from the two-point stance.
What’s the culture like in that Alabama locker room? What’s it like playing for coach Saban?
Williams: He’s a championship coach. We always knew that coach Saban was gonna’ lay the blueprint down for you. You go to work everyday and you go into your locker room, you get ready for practice knowing that he’s gonna’ take care of everything that he needs to take care of. He’s gonna’ have the right coaches in place, the right plays in the playbook and the right people around our program. You never think twice, you never doubt him. If coach Saban allows anybody talk to you at practice, you don’t question their credibility. You know that coach Saban has him around for a reason.
He knows how to win championships and you trust what he has to say. He’s a mentor but he can also be a father figure to some guys or he can be your teacher. He’s won numerous championships and the blueprint is already in place. Everybody feels relaxed in the locker room and we can have our fun, but once we get on the field, it’s business. We know we have to put in the work. We know we have to go out there and execute.
You went to the combine and you were honest about your past. What made you decide to be up front?
Williams: That was something I did as a young kid, 18, 19 years old. I’m 23 years old now and I have two kids with the same woman that I’m hopefully gonna’ marry soon. I owned up to everything because the NFL is a billion dollar industry and they want to know what they’re getting. They wanna know if they’re getting a guy that’s gonna’ be dishonest, or if they’re getting a guy that’s gonna’ self-destruct because he’s sweeping so much stuff under the rug. That’s not me and that’s not how I was raised.
One thing that Nick Saban and the coaching staff can always say about Tim Williams is that I’ve never been a liar. My whole entire life, I hate liars. I’m not about to lie to anybody. My freshmen year, my sophomore year, that was a learning experience and I got over that hump. I’m getting ready to step up into a professional league now, the big boy league and to provide, and hopefully help whichever team I get drafted to win a championship.
I admire that. You obviously faced a lot of elite competition while at Alabama. Who’s the best offensive tackle you ever faced?
Williams: The best offensive tackle I’ve ever faced would be Cam [Robinson], my teammate. That’s my teammate, I went up against him in practice and he is the best I ever faced. Outside of Alabama, I would say the guy from Western Kentucky, Forrest Lamp.
Thanks a lot for your time Tim. In closing, what kind of guy is a team getting when they draft Tim Williams?
Williams: They’re gonna’ get a student of the game. I’m always gonna’ be available and accountable. I’m somebody who wants to be around those 13 year veterans. I want a team to want to give me that second contract. I want to be somebody who’s hopefully gonna’ play for just one team during his pro career. They’re gonna’ get a guy who’s loyal and a guy that gives 100% effort to win ball games and hopefully bring a championship back to our city.