GREEN BAY, WIS. (AP) - Some college players have a hard time waiting when their name doesn’t get called as early as they expect during the NFL draft.
Given D.J. Williams’ personal story, that hardly qualifies as adversity.
Williams survived a difficult childhood to become a standout tight end at Arkansas. Now he’s a member of the Green Bay Packers after the Super Bowl champions took him in the fifth round on Saturday.
“We’ve been through a lot as a family,” Williams said. “We’ve come a long way, pretty much from nothing to where we are now. Just hearing my name called today, getting the phone call from the Green Bay Packers was an awesome moment.”
Having won the John Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end this year, Williams didn’t expect to wait this long. He thought he might have gone as early as the second round, but realized that his less-than-ideal size for a tight end _ 6-2, 251 pounds_ and other perceived deficiencies in speed and strength might have hurt his stock with NFL scouts.
“They always says I look a lot bigger on TV,” Williams said. “And I think that’s just because I play big.”
Including Williams, the Packers used six of their 10 total picks on offense in this year’s draft, including five of their first six _ an unexpected emphasis, given how good Green Bay was on offense last year.
“We weren’t the best offense in the league,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “That’s the goal.”
Green Bay took offensive players with its first three picks Thursday and Friday, then finally went defense on Saturday when they picked New Mexico State cornerback Davon House with their compensatory pick in the fourth round.
House has been a starter since his freshman year, with 11 interceptions in 49 games. He enters a crowded Packers secondary, where Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams and Sam Shields form a formidable cornerback trio.
House tried to pattern his game after one of his new teammates _ not Woodson, but Williams.
“I just watched him all last year and what he does is amazing,” House said. “He’s a ballhawk.”
Another intriguing Packers pick on Saturday was Arizona’s Ricky Elmore, who played defensive end in college but projects as an outside linebacker in Dom Capers’ 3-4 scheme. Elmore was a remarkably productive pass rusher, with 21.5 sacks in the past two seasons, but fell to the Packers in the sixth round.
Thompson acknowledged that Elmore’s speed might not put him among the league’s elite, but believes his numbers indicate he can be a good player.
“We kind of went back to the old saying of production, production, production, and we felt like it was good value at that point,” Packers general manager Ted Thompson said.
Also among the Packers’ selections on the final day were sixth-round guard Caleb Schlauderaff of Utah; sixth-round linebacker D.J. Smith of Appalachian State, who projects as an inside linebacker; seventh-round tight end Ryan Taylor from North Carolina; and seventh-round defensive lineman Lawrence Guy from Arizona State.
But the most intriguing pick was Williams, who said his life turned around when his family left what he described as an abusive situation when he was in fourth grade.
“We lived in shelters for a while but when we moved into our home and sat there that first night with no furniture in it, but the fact that it was our home in our new life that we’re starting, that’s when it all kind of turned around,” Williams said. “We have a clean slate, and we can make what we want out of it. With our strong mother and our strong family, we can do what we want.”
Now he wants to use his stature as an athlete to speak out about domestic violence.
“I think sports gives us athletes a platform to raise awareness for situations that need to be (raised),” Williams said. “Mine was domestic violence, and I had a platform where if I said something, a lot of people would hear it. I thought it was something that could help people out in the long run.”
Packers tight ends coach Ben McAdoo expects big things from Williams.
“He may not have the best measurables, he may not be the tallest guy, he may not be the longest guy, he may not be the fastest guy, but when you turn on the tape he’s one of the best players on the field,” McAdoo said.
For now, Williams would like to celebrate with his family. But the NFL remains under a lockout and Williams doesn’t have much money, so he suggested they might go to McDonald’s.
Even when Williams is able to sign, he knows he won’t be able to live extravagantly _ but he’d still like to do something to help his mother.
“Being a fifth-rounder, you don’t have 50 million bucks to spend,” Williams said. “I just want to get her out of the neighborhood that we are currently in in Little Rock, put her somewhere nice, where she doesn’t have to worry about, did she lock the door every night.”
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