Some players gain notoriety for their consistent play on the field, others for their showboating after they make a big play, and some for their off the field "personality" quirks. Some players seek out the spotlight, while others are just coming to work.
Players who work hard and excel at what they do, often get overlooked amongst the attention seekers in the NFL. These players don't seek out recognition, but they are often the backbone of what makes their team successful.
One such player resides on the Denver Broncos. He is not known for being the best at his position in the NFL, nor is he the poster child for the franchise. He just quietly leads his team with poise, and his superb play.
This players name is, Genos Derwin Williams, Jr., but you may know him as:
D.J. Williams #55 LB
Height: 6-1 Weight: 242 Age: 26
Born: 7/20/1982 Sacramento Co. , CA
College: Miami (Fla.)
Experience: 6th season
High School: De La Salle HS [Concord, CA]
D.J was destined for football greatness from the start. As a Junior in high school D.J. was named 1998 Rivals High School Junior of the Year and ESPN RISE National High School Junior Player of the Year.
D.J.'s Senior season at De La Salle he played both Running back and Linebacker. His senior year he rushed for almost 2,000 yards and 42 touchdowns, and amassed 130 tackles (87 solo). Due to his outstanding play as a senior, D.J. was named the USA Today Defensive Player of the Year and was largely regarded as the top defensive player nationally.
Williams elected to play his college football at the University of Miami, where he was part of a National Championship winning team in 2001. D.J. actually played Fullback his first year at Miami, but with a crowded backfield in Miami that included Clinton Ports, Frank Gore, and Willis McGahee D.J. decided to focus on playing the Linebacker position. D.J. worked hard and his abilities and talents showed as he excelled at the college level, and was named as a semifinalist for the Butkus Award both his junior and senior seasons at The U.
D.J. Williams was then selected by the Denver Broncos in the first round (17th overall) of the 2004 NFL Draft.
D.J. started 14 of 16 games his rookie year. He made an immediate impact on the Broncos and led the team with 114 tackles (82 solo). He also recorded two sacks, had one interception and one forced fumble. D.J. came in third in the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year voting.
In 2005, Williams was moved from the weak side linebacker position to strong side linebacker position after the Broncos signed Ian Gold for his second tour of duty with the Broncos after spending a year in Tampa. Williams graciously and quietly made the move, showing his versatility and willingness to do whatever was going to be best for the team.
D.J. helped lead the Broncos to the playoffs, finishing the season with 55 tackles (39 solo) while adding three pass deflections and one forced fumble as the Sam linebacker.
Still playing on the strong side in 2006, D.J. amassed 76 tackles (59 solo), a sack, one forced fumble, two pass deflections despite playing outside of his natural position on the weak side.
Near the end of the '06 season Al Wilson (another great, yet very underrated player) suffered a severe neck injury. Though he was cleared by team doctors to play the very next week and came back to finish the season on the field, he wasn't quite the same. Wilson's condition was reassessed during the off-season and it led to his release from the Denver Broncos.
The Broncos coaching staff also experienced turnover in the off-season as Larry Coyer was replaced as defensive coordinator by Jim Bates. And once again the Broncos coaching staff asked D.J. to switch positions for the 2007 season.
Williams stepped up once again to attempt to fill the void left by Wilson, by moving to the inside and playing the Mike or middle linebacker position. D.J. finished the season 2nd in the NFL with 141 tackles (106 solo) along with one sack and one interception.
The Denver Broncos, unsatisfied with the direction the Defense was headed following Denver's first losing season since 1999, replaced defensive coordinator Jim Bates with Bob Slowik in 2008. And with this change of direction the Broncos decided to move D.J. back to his more natural position, playing the Will or weak side linebacker. D.J. thrived on a lackluster defense and though he only played eleven games, due to injury, he still managed to make 98 tackles (63 solo) along with 2.5 sacks and 2 pass deflections.
D.J. Williams is a great linebacker who has put up great numbers throughout his Career. In his five seasons in the NFL, despite missing 10 games due to injury, D.J. has averaged 96 tackles a year (71 solo).
Williams has not only played at a very high level worthy of respect, but he has stepped up and done whatever the coaches have asked him to do including playing every linebacker position in the 4-3 defense, calling the defensive plays and making the defensive adjustments.
D.J. has done all of this without wining or complaining, without demanding or drawing attention to himself, but through a quiet and sedated leadership by example. D.J.'s fellow teammates respected and recognized his leadership by making a team captain for the 2008 season.
Having fully recovered from the right knee injury (MCL), that sidelined him for five games last year, D.J. is looking forward to the 2009 season where he will once again switch positions as the Broncos move form a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense.
Williams is slotted to start as the weak inside linebacker in the 3-4 and will need to draw on his experiences playing both the middle linebacker position and his weak side linebacker spot while learning a new style of play under his forth defensive coordinator in four years, Mike Nolan.
Look for Williams to quickly adjust to his new position and continue to make an impact for the Broncos in 2009. Coach Nolan is implementing an attack-hybrid style defense which will situationally adapt formation based on what the opposing team's offense is doing and attack them to achieve success. Nolan does not want his defense to simply read and react, he has designed a defense that will attack the run and pass in the backfield.
Since playing in the NFL, D.J. has not garnered national attention or acclaim. You won't find his picture on NFL.com or ESPN's front pages. Williams hasn't gotten in trouble with the law, no dui's or domestic disputes or gun charges.
Williams just plays the game, and does it with an understated style and class. He has a confidence which does not require flashbulbs and spotlights to highlight his accolades, he just wants to play and win.
D.J. is easily one of my favorite players in th NFL because of the way he goes about handling his business, on and off the field. Number 55 is an amazing talent who has time and again shown his team first attitude and displayed his versatility as a player on the field. He has shown himself to be a leader of men, and a person of outstanding character. I can't wait to see him play this year, and continue his quiet dominance in the NFL.