Bears first-round pick Chris Williams wasn't always the confident, mountain of a man who visited Halas Hall on Monday to meet the press.
He didn't even start a varsity football game at Catholic High School in Baton Rouge until he was a senior, and only then because the player in front of him suffered an injury.
"I was like a chubby kid, then I got taller," the 6-foot-6 Williams said. "Between my sophomore and junior year, I grew about four inches. So my junior year I was just kind of goofy, trying to adjust to all this height I've got. Then by my senior year, I started coming into my own a little bit. I got to college and then I gained weight, so I had to refigure out my body again. And now I know my best is ahead of me as a football player."
Williams entered Vanderbilt at 250 pounds but left around 320. He didn't play in a game his first two seasons, redshirting as a freshman and working with the scout team the following season. But he started each of his last 33 games, including the final 24 at left tackle. The transformation from goofy to gifted resulted in Williams being the 14th player drafted.
That capped off a whirlwind month that began with his marriage April 5, followed by rapid-fire visits to 10 NFL cities for personal visits, and then the draft. All that forced Williams and his bride, Marissa, to postpone their honeymoon. But he said she was OK with that, considering the situation.
"She's happy that I've got a job now," Williams joked. "She didn't mind [postponing the honeymoon]. She knew I was getting a job, and trust me, she's going to get the honeymoon she wants. The honeymoon I could afford then and the one I can afford now are a little bit different."
If he signs the typical five-year rookie contract with the Bears, Williams can expect a deal in the neighborhood of $20 million with about half of that guaranteed. Not only can he upgrade his honeymoon plans, but he should be less of a financial burden to his parents, Sandres and Joseph Williams.
"They're just really proud," Williams said. "And they're really happy that I've worked for this and that it's finally come, and they don't have to buy me anything anymore. They're just all pumped about that."
OT Chris Williams
Williams, whose 32 on the Wonderlic test was the best among all offensive linemen at the NFL Scouting Combine, is one of more intelligent members in the 2008 draft class. Based on Monday's engaging conversation, he's also one of the more entertaining players. He even amused interviewers with his take on his failure to retaliate after a scuffle during a Senior Bowl practice with Texas A&M's Red Bryant that has already been blown out of proportion. Bryant reportedly claimed he left Williams with a two-day headache.
"There's not any truth to that," Williams said. "As far as beating a grown man in full pads, I was like, 'I'm not going to break my hand hitting him in the helmet. He can hit me as many times as he wants.' I was laughing the whole time like, 'Please keep hitting me and break your hand and get drafted in the 12th round.'"
For the record, Bryant went to the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth round, 107 picks after the Bears selected Williams.
Williams said he didn't obsess over his own draft status and the uncertainty that players sometimes feel on the eve of the selection meeting because they have no control over where they're going to spend the next few years of their life.
He said: "I was real calm about it. I didn't get nervous or anything. I didn't know where I was supposed to be, and I just let God do his work. There was nothing I could do anyway, positive or negative. I mean ... I could go rob a liquor store or something and plummet," drawing laughs all around.
Williams' wit and wisdom are commendable traits, but if intelligence and snappy one-liners mattered in the NFL, the Bears would have drafted Dennis Miller to play left tackle. The team, and especially general manager Jerry Angelo, will be skewered if Williams doesn't line up at left tackle Sunday night, Sept. 7, in Indianapolis against the Colts.
"We [said] that tackle was our No. 1 need," Angelo said, "and we felt that we addressed that by drafting Chris."
As for personal predictions, Williams is taking the humble route for now – another sign of wisdom.
"Obviously, I want to be a starter," he said. "I'm going to start at the bottom with everybody else and hope to work my way up to the top."
NEWS & NOTES
Williams and third-rounder Earl Bennett were teammates the past three years at Vanderbilt. When Bennett, a decorated wide receiver, was drafted (70th overall) early Sunday morning about 9:30, he couldn't wait to tell Williams, who was still sleeping, that they were going to remain teammates.
"It's very nice because me and Chris are very good friends," Bennett said. "I called and told him. He was still in bed. I don't know what he was doing [Saturday] night, but he said, 'Congratulations, let's get ready to head to Chicago to win the Super Bowl.' That is our main focus right now, coming up there and helping them win some games."
Williams said Bennett brings a lot to the table.
"He catches everything," Williams said. "That's what you want in a receiver. And he's going to work hard, and he won't be in any trouble or anything. He's a smart guy, too."
But an inexperienced traveler, according to Williams, who got an amusing call from Bennett on his cell phone a couple weeks ago while both were criss-crossing the country visiting NFL teams.
"Earl was on a team visit," Williams said, "and he calls me and says, 'Hey, Chris. When you change planes, do you have to go get your bags?' I'm like, 'No, Earl. They're going to change the bags for you.'"
The Bears may still need another quarterback, since they only had Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton on the roster before signing undrafted rookie free agents Nick Hill of Southern Illinois and Caleb Hanie of Colorado State the day after the draft.
QB Nick Hill
Nam Y. Huh/AP Images
Other than Matt Ryan, they weren't thrilled with any of the quarterbacks available when it was their turn to pick. They liked USC's John David Booty in the fourth round, but they like LSU safety Craig Steltz a lot better with the 120th overall selection. The Bears' brain trust was in agreement that Steltz could become a starter.
"I didn't want to pass up a player that was a starter to take a quarterback that maybe could be a good backup," Angelo said. "By our grades, I will agree that I didn't think that it was a great quarterback class. I thought earlier on that it was going to be pretty good, but the more we did research and evaluation, we just felt it was going to be a very mediocre. And I think you saw that on how the players were picked. We didn't want to put a square peg in a round hole. We didn't want to manufacture a player because of a need, so we stayed the course."
A day before the draft, WR Rashied Davis signed a $3.87 million, three-year contract that includes a $1.1 million signing bonus and a $400,000 roster bonus next year. Davis can also earn another $2 million in incentives based on escalators that will be difficult to reach.
A week earlier as a restricted free agent, Davis signed his one-year tender offer of $927,000 while a long-term deal was negotiated. The former Arena Football League standout joined the Bears as a backup cornerback and special teams player in 2005 before converting to wide receiver and catching 39 passes for 468 yards and 2 touchdowns the past two seasons.
The 5-foot-9, 187-pound Davis did not play organized football until he attended West Los Angeles Community College and then San Jose State. Davis was also the Bears' leading kickoff returner in 2006, averaging 23.5 yards on 32 attempts. He was fifth last season with 11 special-teams tackles and has 29 special-teams tackles in his three-year Bears career. He was originally signed as an unrestricted free agent in 2005 after spending four years with the San Jose Saber Cats of the AFL.
The Bears signed 10 undrafted rookie free agents, including Hill and Hanie. Also signed were offensive tackle Cody Balogh of Montana, cornerback Trey Brown of UCLA, defensive ends Joe Clermond of Pittsburgh and Nick Osborn of San Diego State, nose tackle David Faaeteete of Oregon, wide receiver Curtis Hamilton of Western Kentucky, defensive back Leslie Majors of Indiana and kicker Shane Longest of St. Xavier.
The 6-2 1/2, 214-pound Hill, who began his college career at Western Kentucky on a basketball scholarship, started all 27 games in his final two seasons for the Salukis, throwing 43 touchdown passes and just 11 interceptions. The left-hander threw for 3,175 yards last season while completing 71.5 percent of his passes (258 of 361).
Longest, who also played baseball at St. Xavier, hit 42 of 55 field-goal attempts over the past two seasons, punted for a 43.2-yard average and had 20 touchbacks on 87 kickoffs. As a junior, he was 7-for-7 on FG tries from 40-49 yards.
QUOTE TO NOTE
"I have made a really horrible mistake, and of course I have seen how it has cost me – especially [on draft day]. That is exactly what it was. It was a mistake that I made in the past, but I've moved on from it. And right now, I'm just being positive about the whole situation and taking care of my business as far as my counseling going on and the classes I have to attend in order to get past the things that I went through. The situation is pretty much behind me, and I'm moving on." – Bears third-round DT Marcus Harrison on his arrest last August for felony drug possession.
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