Williams will be one of the greats

first_imgThis past weekend, the USC football program had seven members of last year’s team participate in the NFL Combine. Overall this was an impressive number of invitations for the Trojans, who tied Oregon for the most players represented from the Pac-12.The player whose performance will receive the most attention until draft time are is former lineman Leonard Williams, who declared early after his junior season. Williams, a consensus top-five pick in every mock draft, is vying for the No. 1 overall selection. A dominant defensive lineman while at USC, Williams played through various injuries during his time as a Trojan. This ability to play while hurt  — and play well  — was an underrated quality Williams possessed and one that will benefit him as a professional.While many top collegiate prospects sit out with the slightest injury to not hurt their draft stock, Williams cemented his legacy as a Trojan when he played hurt during the Stanford game early in the 2014 season.He demonstrated what it means to be a warrior on the football field, and dominated fellow top prospect Andrus Peat for periods of that game.The main problem with the NFL Combine is that it doesn’t measure heart or intensity. While some prospects are able to run blazing fast 40-yard dashes and broad jump exceptionally far, they might not maintain great practice habits or the internal drive necessary to succeed on the professional level.That’s why fans get fooled so often by great Combine performances that don’t always pan out over the course of a professional career. Of course there are exceptions — most notably Vernon Davis and Chris Johnson — but the body of work during a college career matters a lot more than one weekend of drills in Indianapolis. NFL scouts are aware of this and do not base their evaluations on just the combine; however, the average fan might.That’s why JaDeveon Clowney was hyped as the next Lawrence Taylor before he stepped onto the field for the Texans. He certainly had an impressive college career, which included a sophomore season that involved a bone- crushing hit against Michigan in the bowl game. When he dealt with injuries and double and triple teams as a junior, however, he didn’t fare as well both on and off the field.The entire season of red flags was overshadowed by the combination of his almost superhuman 4.53 40 yard dash and incredible highlight reel. When his rookie season rolled around, however, Clowney was beset by a bevy of injuries, with microfracture knee surgery ultimately ending his year early. One year is a small sample of an entire career, but it certainly doesn’t bode well for Clowney’s future, regardless of his workout-warrior status at the Combine.Of course, Clowney could come back with a vengeance this season, buoyed by the fact that he lines up next to J.J. Watt, possibly one of the greatest defensive linemen to play in the 21st century. The jury is still out on Clowney, and hopefully, he makes a full recovery and realizes his immense potential. He should just serve as an example to fans that tempering expectations after the Combine is extremely important.In contrast to Clowney, Williams played through everything, from a busted shoulder to an injured ankle, and he didn’t once complain or sit out to protect his future.He may not be in the same athletic class as Clowney, but Williams is also a physically dominating presence on the football field. Combine his raw tools with great instincts and a never-ending motor, and I am confident that Williams will be a better professional than Clowney or any other defensive line prospect in this draft.Across the league, former USC defensive tackles have demonstrated their considerable skills and carved out successful careers in the league. With the exception of the most coveted collegiate prospect, Sedrick Ellis, the fraternity of USC interior lineman is pretty impressive. Mike Patterson, a member of the Wild Bunch II line with Shaun Cody, Kenechi Udeze and Omar Nazel has outlasted his fellow college teammates and is currently playing in his 10th season, his second with the New York Giants after eight with the Philadelphia Eagles.Jurrell Casey, who followed in the footsteps of Patterson and Ellis, is one of the most underrated players in the league as a tackle for the Tennessee Titans.Casey dominates opposing linemen with the same regularity that he had when he was disrupting Pac-12 offenses.Fili Moala might never live up to the hype he had when he entered his final season as a Trojan, when Todd Mcshay surprisingly pegged Moala as the first pick in his initial mock draft, but is still in the league with the Colts with a longer-than-average NFL career.Leonard Williams will be better than all of his predecessors at USC and a dynamic defender for years to come. He doesn’t have the same body type as Patterson or Casey but is just as powerful with even more versatility.Williams’s Combine performance was solid, but it was his play on the field that foreshadows a great future as a professional.Jake Davidson is a sophomore majoring in accounting. His column, “Davidson’s Direction,” runs Mondays.last_img