In Jesse Williams, Seattle Seahawks might have made another deft NFL draft pickup
Alabama defensive tackle Jesse Williams' nickname is Tha Monstar. But if he pans out, excuse the Seahawks if they rename him Tha Steal.
Times staff columnist
RENTON — Jesse Williams' nickname is Tha Monstar.
Excuse the Seahawks, though, if they rename him Tha Steal.
That's what the 6-foot-4, 325-pound defensive tackle looks like right now — a massive, tattooed baaaaaaad man who could develop into a beast whenever he's on the field.
In the fifth round of the 2013 NFL draft, Seahawks general manager John Schneider might have made one of his classic shrewd final-day decisions. If Williams pans out, the pick will be an all-timer: a run-stuffer swift enough to run a 4.84 40-yard dash who hails from Australia.
Williams is also the rare Alabama standout who qualifies as underappreciated. He helped the Crimson Tide win national titles in his only two seasons, but the potential second-round pick fell to the fifth round, possibly because of concerns about a knee he had surgically repaired after the national-title game three months ago.
You simply don't find defensive linemen this big, this agile and this accomplished with the 137th overall pick, even if there are injury concerns. Clearly, the rest of the NFL has a blind spot when it comes to scouting Australian players.
In all seriousness, though, Williams has a chance to be the best value pick of this Seahawks draft. When Schneider saw Williams was available, he traded up in the fifth round to make sure the tackle became a Seahawk.
"For us, he was sitting alone," Schneider said of Williams' place on the Seahawks' draft board.
Williams didn't even start playing football until age 15, when he joined a club team called the Bayside Ravens. Growing up in Brisbane, Australia, he played rugby and basketball. When he was 16, the University of Hawaii visited for a football clinic, and the coaches became so enamored with Williams' raw talent that they offered him a scholarship. Williams committed, but for academic reasons, he had to go to Arizona Western College.
After two years at Western Arizona, Williams had developed into a significant prospect on the West Coast. Oregon State tried to snag him early, but when Alabama coach Nick Saban called, Williams was sold on the Crimson Tide.
Moving to Tuscaloosa, Ala., was an even bigger culture shock than the transition from Australia to Arizona, but Williams thrived. He chose the Crimson Tide for the coaching and the school's pipeline to the NFL. He knew he could be a pro, and considering that he can bench-press 600 pounds, there was no one — not even in the mighty Southeastern Conference — who could stop him from realizing his dream.
"The dream grew fairly quickly once I got a grasp of the sport and tried to pursue it," Williams said. "Everyone who plays in Australia is kind of modeling themselves after people in the NFL and trying to get to the NFL. Once I knew I was kind of good enough and made it to junior college, it started to not only be my dream, but also be a realistic goal the further I got. It's a great feeling to be able to reach that and hopefully continue that and help the team out."
If he's healthy — and the Seahawks say they have no concerns about his health — he'll help the team. No doubt, he'll help. Williams is a versatile lineman, but the Seahawks plan to use him as their three-technique tackle — meaning he'll line up on the guard's outside shoulder. There is playing time available at that spot because of the departure of starter Alan Branch in free agency. The Seahawks are suddenly loaded with D-line options, but Williams should be in the mix.
"He's a really intense, jump-off-the-ball, strong man," Schneider said.
He's a really scary dude upon first glance. He's not a flabby 325 pounds. He's a brick — no, he's a whole darn house. And most of his body is covered in tattoos.
The ink ranges from "YOLO" on his left cheek to "Fear is a liar" on the right side of his head to a sentence on his right hand that reads "I stopped checking for the monster under the bed when I realized the monster is me."
Now, the monster — ahem, Tha Monstar — is in Seattle.
While it's too soon to get carried away, here's predicting Williams has a good chance to become the latest fifth-round steal of Schneider's four-draft tenure in Seattle. If so, he would join Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman on an elite list. He's prepared to do his best in Seattle.
"Seattle is on the West Coast, and I'm pretty familiar with that culture and lifestyle out there," Williams said. "I'm looking forward to getting back there. It's definitely a shorter flight back to Australia from there than it is from Alabama. It should be fun once I get out there and get into it."
Look out. Tha Monstar is coming.
Soon, perhaps he'll morph into Tha Steal.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @JerryBrewer
About Jerry Brewer
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