Good news for Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones: Australia actually knows what’s happening with your sport!
It’s not every day that you run into many people from outside the United States who know much, if anything, about the NFL. Interestingly, they often have heard of the Cowboys.
Such is the case concerning a business colleague of mine named Michael, who lives in Sydney. As our day jobs deal with marketing aquatic goods and livestock, I assumed that Michael would be interested in sports such as soccer, Australian football or rugby. So I was a bit stunned when he asked me about Crimson Tide nose tackle Jesse Williams, who hails from Australia. Michael told me that he enjoyed a good portion of the BCS National Championship game on Monday night between Alabama and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
After winning three of the last four national championships and with the NFL draft already on the radar, the Alabama program has no shortage of coverage and visibility. The Crimson Tide were celebrated for their stockpile of talent and depth on the offensive line, and this unit, along with a stable of running backs, shredded the Irish from start to finish.
But we haven’t heard as much about the ‘Bama defense after names like Courtney Upshaw, Dont’a Hightower, Rolando McClain and Terrence Cody all entered the NFL over the last few seasons.
Well, you can’t have it all every year—unless you’re Alabama, of course.
So as Michael was trying to tell me about Jesse Williams, a name I had never connected with Australia, I listened with intrigue.
It turns out that Williams is the first Australian native to receive a scholarship to play college football in the United States. It also turns out that Williams is pretty dang good.
Following two seasons at Arizona Western College beginning in 2009 so he could beef up his academic requirements, Williams moved on to Tuscaloosa--talk about timing!
Two national championships later, Williams is likely an early- to mid-round draft pick in April.
What does this have to do with the Cowboys?
You know all too well about the situation surrounding defensive lineman Josh Brent and also that Jay Ratliff was never a nose guard in the first place.
It almost does not matter what scheme Dallas chooses after the surprising and inappropriate firing of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan January 8. Ryan's unit performed about as well as head coach Jason Garrett’s offense did, but with many more injuries on the defensive squad. Not sure why Garrett gets a pass—again.
Nonetheless, Jesse Williams is a guy to watch for a couple of reasons, starting with strength and power.
Williams created some buzz when he bench-pressed 600 pounds last offseason.
Think about that. I’m not sure what 600 pounds looks like in a gym.
Considering that Williams has this kind of power, one has to consider how this Aussie might fit in the middle of the Dallas defensive line.
For perspective, let’s look back at the career and talents of Hall of Fame offensive lineman Larry Allen, a winner of two Super Bowls in Dallas and also at one time the strongest man in the NFL.
Allen was known for his brute strength and remarkable ability to push any defensive lineman into the secondary. Top NFL defenders wanted no part of Allen on Sunday afternoon, likely because it would be possibly the only time all season that they would be neutralized from the start and possibly injured by the end.
Strength and power are difference-makers, period. Players who can translate those attributes onto the football field are going to be names you hear a lot.
In 2001, Allen bench-pressed 700 pounds—and he thought he could have done more!
Comparing Allen to Williams is a limited project: They don’t play the same position, Williams has not shown that he can lift 700 pounds or that he’s headed for a Hall of Fame career in the NFL.
But Williams likely will shoot up draft boards following the NFL Scouting Combine next month for his athleticism as well as for his strength.
While it’s true that we can get too wrapped up with figures and stats during player workouts, some indicators always will be coveted.
A 325-pound man, like Williams, who can lead-block as a fullback in goal-line situations is not a common skill. A lead blocker has to get through the hole, or at least to it in Williams’ case, before the defensive line crushes everything.
But nobody is crushing Williams—and nobody is stopping him either. Each time the Tide ran Williams ahead of a running back near the goal line, they hit pay dirt.
Williams is not as massive as I would prefer at nose guard, but he’s not far off, and he could very well be the most powerful player at the combine. SMU’s Margus Hunt, a defensive end, might be up there too.
Right now, Williams projects as a second- to fourth-round pick come April. But expect him to end up somewhere between late Round 1 to late Round 2.
Assuming that Dallas handles offensive line priorities in Round 1, “Tha Monstar” from Australia has too much to offer for the Cowboys to ignore—yet Jones always has ignored blue-chip talent at this position.
So how is that working out, Jerry?