Merriam-Webster defines infiltrate as "to pass (troops) singly or in small groups through gaps in the enemy line." I don't know if there's a better summation of a defensive lineman.
When Terrence Cody came to Alabama from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College he became something Alabama had never seen before. He was basically a giant, fat guy that just got in people's way. And he was good at it. He was one of the most electrifying players in Crimson Tide history, and pushing a few huge guys over while he blocked two field goals only cemented that image. Leigh Tiffin: 12, Tennessee: 10.
As out of shape Cody was most of the time—and still is—he was still a once in a lifetime player. Boys don't get much better than that. At least not 'round these parts...
Enter Jesse Williams. 6'4" and over 320 lbs (I am sure the value fluctuates with a fella that big). We've all heard of him, and we all know most of that 320 lbs is muscle. Unlike his predecessor, Terrence Cody, Jesse is in really good shape, and can play every down. He likely has the lowest body mass index out of all the lineman, offense and defensive.
Williams actually admitted he felt Americans were slow in the weight room back in his junior college days. He once asked his coach at Arizona Western Community College, Tom Minnick "Why don't these guys work out?". He also said, "I came over here expecting players to be more determined. But they have different things in life. Some people just breeze through life. I'm more determined."
He may have changed that attitude since coming to Alabama and seeing Trent Richardson, but I'd wager he will out-work everyone else on the iron. You ask a coach if he wants raw talent or hard work, he'll choose hard work every time. Will Lowery has made a living off it.
Williams is reported to be the strongest player in the weight room now. It may be news to some to hear that William Vlachos was previously regarded as the strongest player on the team. What did Vlachos have to say on Jesse Williams?
"He bench presses a lot more than I do already. The great thing about him is, he’s pretty versatile. He can play noseguard, end, what you want him to play, he can probably play it. He runs like a deer, even as big as he is.”
Though Terrence Cody made a living by clogging running lanes and occupying blockers, Jesse can do more than that. Running like a deer sure helps. He's got the upper body linemen dream of, and legs a linebacker dreams of. He also played running back on his Australian club football team. I wouldn't call it running back, as bulldozer seems more suitable.
Okay, so he has big muscles, not much fat, speed and a mohawk mullet. Oh, and he talks funny. What else is there too know?
Some may have heard he was walking around at Alabama's pro day without shoes. He also walked to class wearing shorts and a tank top...in freezing temperatures.
He's like an alien (the space kind) in a new world. He may not fancy the barbecue and sweet tea yet, but he's working on saying "ya'll" more often, at least. Ya'll and a mullet, I think he'll fit right in.
Dont'a Hightower, a beloved Bama boy, said of Williams, "“We have a class together and he’s quite the character. I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody who walked to class in 20-degree weather in flip flops and shorts and a tank top.” When Dont'a Hightower says somebody is tough, they are tough.
His friends and family can't wrap their minds around the stadium crowd. He claimed a rugby team, arguably the most popular sport in Australia, "would never fill a stadium with 100,000 fans.” Well, Bryant-Denny does that every week.
When Jesse visited Alabama for the season opener against San Jose State, he said, "At the game, I went past the student section and they started chanting my name. There were young people, elderly people and middle-aged people. I was wondering how they knew who I was. That shocked me a bit."
Jesse Williams was actually not interested in American football for most of his life, which isn't surprising since he hails from Brisbane, Australia. A guy like him, of course, was fond of rugby, where he learned proper tackling techniques, so don't expect many penalties out of him.
Did you know, however, he is a huge fan of basketball? He's quite good at it I might add. When someone goes from basketball to football, what is the first thing you think of? Quick feet. He's got 'em.
After Williams discovered football he claimed he "slowly progressed." After only a year of playing, he had offers from several medium to large schools, including his initial choice, Hawaii, which he verbally committed to when he was sixteen. He didn't quite understand.
He had a bit of a delay after high school, however. He spent a year working in landscaping, and quickly realized he wanted a better life. He learned that football was a tool to get him through college, where he wanted to pursue a degree in international business.
Alabama, however, was fortunate that NCAA standards are a little different than Australia and Jesse couldn't go to school right away. Jesse was missing a couple of courses and, instead of just spending a year getting those courses and going to his original commitment, Hawaii, he decided to take the junior college path.
After heading there, he was clueless in regards to college recruiting. When Penn State became interested he asked, "Who's Penn State?" He is now in Tuscaloosa. Joe Paterno may have smiled when he shook Nick Saban's hand, but I'd wager he hates his guts.
His experience is lacking compared to the rest of the young men on the team, but he has the physical tools. Luckily, the defensive line is one of the easiest roles to learn in football when compared to that of a quarterback or a cornerback. As long as he can push some huge guys on their backs he'll do just fine.
By September, Jesse will have spent a year under the tutelage of Nick Saban and new (and very good) defensive line coach Chris Rumph, whom Alabama recently acquired from Clemson. After an offseason of lining up against William Vlachos, Barrett Jones, D.J. Fluker and the rest of the offensive line crew, Williams is sure to have the experience.
He's yet to play one down in Bryant-Denny stadium, but he's got all the fans attention.
If you go by the dictionary standards, yes, Jesse Williams is an infiltrator. He is the infiltrator.
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