Brandon Williams learning the ropes as a rookie with the Baltimore Ravens
By David Driver/Special Correspondent
Owings Mills, Md.– There was a lot of emotion going through the mind of Brandon Williams that Friday night in late April. Then the Missouri Southern got a call from the Baltimore Ravens.
"I saw the number, Maryland, come across my screen. My gosh, the Super Bowl," he said. "It was a blessing and it made me feel good. My mindset is I have to work hard. These guys have been to The Show. They want me to come in and work hard like they do. I have to step up my game."
Nearly five months later defensive lineman Williams, 24, drafted in the third round by the Ravens, is trying to make his new employer look good. Known for savvy draft picks, Williams was one of two Division II products – along with Ryan Jensen of Colorado State-Pueblo – that Baltimore selected in the first six rounds of the 2013 draft.
"We had a conversation in that we came from a spot where maybe it was a little harder to get where we were at," says Jensen, of his teammate.
What is the biggest change from college to the pros?
"You have a lot of free time," says the 6-foot-1, 335 pound Williams, sitting by his cubicle in the spacious Baltimore lockerrom after a recent morning practice. "You have to be smart with your free time. You can get extra treatment or look at the playbook a few more hours. I am trying to learn new area, new spots around town."
And he is trying to get on the field as a member of the team's 53-man roster of the defending Super Bowl champs.
Williams hurt his right big toe in pre-season practice and is now out of a walking boot. "I am feeling real good right now. Things are going in the right direction," he says. "I am staying positive and trying to get back on the field. I am feeling good."
He says meanwhile he is learning from veteran defensive linemen such as All-Pro Haloti Ngata, who played at the University of Oregon, and Chris Canty, a former standout at the University of Virginia. The Ravens improved to 2-1 on Sept. 22 as they beat the favorite Texans in Baltimore in a textbook victory that used its strong defense and special teams play.
Williams had few ties to the mid-Atlantic region but he has been joined by his fiancé and young son in Maryland. They live in the Pikesville area of Baltimore County, a few miles from the training complex – at the fitting address of 1 Winning Drive – in the northwest part of Baltimore County.
Williams says one of the biggest shocks of life in the NFL is total strangers coming up to him in public places and knowing who he is. "Just random people coming up and knowing who you are," he says, "especially coming from Division II."
The most ardent fans of the Ravens knew about him before training camp began. "You are the handstand guy," says Williams, noting about his internet sensation that showed up with a few months ago as he wore his No. 66 green MSSU jersey.
Though thousands of miles away from his Missouri home, Williams says he keep in contact with his former college coaches and teammates.
"He just texted me today," Williams says of mentor Daryl Daye. "We keep in contact. I look at the (website) and see how they do on Saturdays."
Williams, from Kirkwood, Missouri, played in every game as true freshman in 2008 and was eighth on the team in tackles with 38.
He sat out the next year as a medical redshirt and in 2010 led the team with nine sacks and 17 tackles for a loss and named to three all-American teams.
Williams, a junior in 2011, was all-American for the second year in a row and had 35 tackles and eight sacks.
As a senior last season he was a pre-season All-American and ended up with 27 career sacks at Missouri Southern. He had 68 tackles as a senior with 8.5 sacks and was the MIAA Defensive Player of the Year.
Now he has gone from a small-college star to the roster of the Super Bowl champs.
"I came here and I had a chip on my shoulder and I still have a chip on my shoulder," he says. "I know what it is like to be passed up from a Division I school. I have to show them I can play. The difference is the speed. In Division II you are playing against guys who are 6-2 and not 6-5."
Editor's note: David Driver is a free-lance writer in Maryland who has done several stories on Ravens' players over the last 10 years. He has contributed to several athletic websites at the Division I and II level, is a consultant to the athletic website of Longwood University and is the former sports editor of the daily Baltimore Examiner. He can be reached at www.davidsdriver.com