Dan Williams addresses the media Friday during his press conference.
To hear his name called over the speakers at Radio City Music Hall, to receive a Cardinals' hat and jersey on the main stage and then hug NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Dan Williams admitted "it's like my dream is a reality now."
The newest Cardinal, chosen 26th overall by Arizona Thursday, wasn't even sure he'd be in the NFL until the end of his junior year at the University of Tennessee. Coaches convinced him the pros were possible, but that's about as far as it went.
As he stood talking after his introductory press conference Friday at the Cards' Tempe complex, his whirlwind life having taken him from Knoxville to New York to Phoenix, Williams realized he had accomplished so much more.
"If you talked to me this time last year," the nose tackle said, "I was (going to be) a free agent or (in) the seventh round."
Williams flashed a smile early and often as he spoke. There was no reason to do anything else. Many of the mock drafts had him going much higher in the first round, but he insisted that never affected him.
Why would it? If he wasn't sure he was even going to be drafted such a short time ago, it seems petty to worry if you are 12th or 26th in the first round.
"I never did get caught up into it," Williams said. "I want to prove myself to the coaches and the GM. I am thankful the organization believed in me."
The Cardinals believe in Williams because of that infamous draft cliché "high motor," that highly-sought-after-but-hard-to-find quality in interior defensive linemen. Coach Ken Whisenhunt emphasized Williams' 70 tackles last season as proof Williams provides that effort. Defensive line coach Ron Aiken said it can only help a defense to watch the man in the middle hustling every play.
"You're talking about a guy, the linebackers are standing there looking at him, the secondary is standing there looking at him," defensive line coach Ron Aiken said. "That's what excites us."
Said Williams, "I want to be around every play. If teammates see you running to the ball, a 300-pound man, those linebackers and DBs say, 'I know I have to be around the ball if the big man is running.' "
Aiken said Williams creates competition from the moment he steps on the field, but because of Williams' background, he doesn't arrive entitled. There is a level that needs to be proven, something Whisenhunt and his staff always insist upon from their rookies and something Williams understands.
He'll wear No. 92 – Bertrand Berry's old number – and battle Gabe Watson for playing time in the middle. And he'll enjoy every step, remembering the day when he wasn't sure his path would be like this.
"I don't want to be a disappointment for anybody," Williams said.
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