Kyler Murray will likely be the first name called in tonight’s NFL draft, but for my money the best football player in the Class of 2019 is Alabama’s Quinnen Williams. The winner of the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top interior lineman and a unanimous First Team All-American, Williams collected 71 tackles (16 more than any other Tide defensive lineman) with a team-high 19.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks.
But don’t take it from the sportswriters or the stat sheet. Just look at the guy play and you’ll quickly see Williams is a boss.
But there’s a (small) catch: When you go hunting for Williams clips, chances are you’ll only find them from the 2018 season.
That’s because Williams, a former 4-star recruit out of Birmingham, only started for one year. He redshirted in 2016, then played as a reserve as a redshirt freshman in 2017. In fact, Alabama’s depth chart for the 2017 national championship game against Georgia lists him as the third-string defensive end, behind sophomore Raekwon Davis and junior Isaiah Buggs.
He moved inside for the 2018 season, starting at nose guard in between Davis and Buggs, 10 pounds heavier and another year wiser.
“I had thought about (transferring), but knowing the Alabama process and the Alabama standard is second to none, I was willing to wait,” Williams told SiriusXM NFL, “willing to sit behind great guys who were great leaders, who taught me how to be a professional on the field and off the field. It wasn’t really any grudge or anything about that.
“I thought about it sometimes, ‘Man, I could’ve started anywhere else,’ but playing for Alabama, learning the things that Alabama taught me, I wouldn’t want to be nowhere else.”
— College Sports on SiriusXM (@SXMCollege) April 25, 2019
Nick Saban has said he’s deemphasizing how much he pitches the NFL to recruits, but that doesn’t mean it will cease to be a topic of conversation. Guys with enough talent that Alabama is recruiting them are obviously thinking about the NFL, and when it comes up Saban can pull up this clip — an Outland Trophy winner and a first-round pick who sat and waited his turn. He trusted The Process, just like you, Johnny Five-Star, should do when you get to Tuscaloosa.
Not every program develops players like Alabama and not every player is Quinnen Williams, but that isn’t the point. In the age of transfer waivers, Williams is a reminder that sometimes the grass is greener where you water it.