Jason Williams Goes from Small-School Player to Big-League Prospect

Jabber HeadSenior Analyst IMarch 26, 2009

The NFL Draft countdown has now dipped beneath the 30 day mark, and a plethora of names and photos are plastered on our screens. They are college football’s popular names, and productions of the sport’s usual suspects.

But in the midst of the high-profile prospects, there are small-school players that are seldom the targets of media analysis and hardly seen. And somewhere in the small group, there often lies a gem that will shine brighter on professional fields.

One of those hidden gems, Jason Williams, hails from Western Illinois and recently completed his Pro-Day at Northwestern University. With the names Curry, Cushing, Maualuga, and Laurinaitis smashing our eardrums, Williams worked quietly before NFL representatives in preparation for the next level.

As a combine snub, the 6’3", 238-pound linebacker posted a 40-time of 4.49, which bested the Combine’s top performance for the position, while also placing him among the timed leaders for cornerbacks and safeties.

To learn more about the small-school prospect, Sports Jabber recently caught up with the former Leatherneck for a brief session of questions and answers. And I must say, after his outstanding Pro-Day performance, and impressive sprint numbers, I truly admire his honesty and humbleness.

Do you think some players get a free path to the NFL, because of the big name programs they attend?

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I hate to admit it, but yes I do think some guys make it into the league a little easier than others based on the prestige of the program they came from. Not to say they didn’t earn it, but their school’s prestige helps sometimes.

Is it an agent that determines your workout facilities and trainer or a decision you make on your own?

It’s more of a collaborative decision between my agent and myself. Pretty much all agents have access to training facilities, but at the end of the day it’s the athlete’s decision where he wants to work out at.

Are 40-times overrated?

Yes, 40 times can be overrated to an extent, and at the same time needed. Like in my case, my 40 time is extremely important because I come from a smaller school and it helps me stand out more.

But in my opinion, a lot of guys just use the 40 as a reason to validate why they pick certain players. In reality, there aren’t too many times where a guy will actually sprint 40 yards dead ahead without cutting or changing directions.

Which current NFL player do you feel you’re most comparable to?

I guess by me being a Bears fan, I’d probably compare myself to Lance Briggs in some ways. We’re both very athletic LB’s that are fast for our position. Huge playmakers and really good in space.

What is your most memorable experience in your years of football?

I’d say the most memorable moment would be my first collegiate start in a big arena. During the '06 season we traveled to The Big House in Wisconsin and the experience was overwhelming because i had never seen that many people all cheering at once before.

What are the hardships and advantages coming from a small school program?

I’d say the hardships are just the fact that we tend to be underrated a lot and scouts tend to look us over because they think we weren’t good enough to play in big programs. I’d say the advantages would be playing on this level makes me work harder because I know I have so much more to prove because I’m not at a bigger school.

Representatives from 14 NFL teams were on hand at Northwestern’s Pro-day, making the outsider from the small Western Illinois program their focal point.

I’m wishing him the best in the upcoming weeks, and will be waiting anxiously to hear his name called next month. Small school programs may represent the NFL minority, but they’ve delivered several stars of the game.

Maybe the names Tony Romo (Eastern Illinois), Terrell Owens (Tennessee-Chattanooga), and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Tennessee State) will be joined someday soon by Jason Williams.

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