Tag: Ian Williams

Getty Images - Jonathan Daniel

Smith, Stewart, Walls and Williams all find NFL homes


After a much longer wait than anyone anticipated, four former Irish football players will have a chance to continue their careers in the NFL. Linebacker Brian Smith, guard Chris Stewart, cornerback Darrin Walls and nose tackle Ian Williams all agreed to rookie free agent contracts yesterday, the first day the NFL opened for business after a 135-day lockout.

Smith will join the Cleveland Browns, where new head coach Pat Shurmur brought in former head coach Dick Jauron to run the defense. Smith has plenty of versatility at linebacker, playing inside and out in both the 3-4 and 4-3, something that’ll come in handy in a defense that’ll likely do a little of both.

Stewart joins one of the AFC’s best teams, the New York Jets. He’ll battle for a job along the offensive line, working with assistant head coach and offensive line coach Bill Callahan. The Jets have a two-deep at guard that includes backups with zero NFL experience, likely the reason why Stewart chose New York.

Walls was expected to be drafted after a solid senior season, but didn’t get invited to the NFL Combine. Still, he elevated his stock more than any other player at the Notre Dame Pro Day when he ran a sub 4.4 forty-time in his personal workouts. He announced via Twitter this morning that he’ll be going to Atlanta, trying to make it in a secondary that was in the bottom-third of the NFL against the pass.

The longest wait of any Notre Dame player might have belonged to Ian Williams, who at one time expected to hear his name called in the second or third round. Williams injured his knee against Navy late in the season, came back in time for the bowl game but struggled to get completely healthy. That likely led to his draft day slide, which officially ended when he joined Jim Harbaugh’s San Francisco 49ers. Williams walks into a depth chart that is likely losing starting nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin. According to an SI.com report, Williams was the top undrafted free agent available.

UPDATE — It appears that running back Armando Allen has also signed a free agent contract. Allen will join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to various reports.

ANOTHER UPDATE — Add Robert Hughes to the list. He’s signed with his hometown Chicago Bears.

Draft snub fueling Williams’ drive to the NFL

Getty Images - Jonathan Daniel

In a story nobody thought he’d be writing, Ian Williams reflected on getting passed up in last weekend’s NFL Draft.

Williams, who some had pegged as a second rounder early in the year, expected to go somewhere between the third and fifth round of the draft. Instead, he’s weighing his options back in South Bend, as NFL rookie free agency is closed because of the lockout.

One emotion that’s been weighing on Williams? The embarrassment of having family and friends gathered to celebrate his selection, a party that never happened:

From Williams, in yesterday’s South Bend Tribune:

I spent last weekend at home in the Orlando area, waiting for my name to be called in the NFL Draft, which didn’t happen.

It was tough. It was more embarrassing than anything. When people ask or when people Google my name or something like that, you’ll see projections of third to fifth round.

Late in the draft, teams did call, but not for the reasons I hoped they would. It was kind of like false hope. You’re sitting around for hours waiting for the phone call…

I happened to have a few family and friends who were at my house with me Friday and Saturday. And again not seeing my name called, it was very embarrassing.

After the draft ended, I didn’t even want to talk to anybody. I snuck out the window, got in my car and just drove off for a little bit, because I needed to clear my head.

The hard part is I’ve tried to do everything right for the past eight years: Graduate from high school, not have any troubles in high school, graduate from college, not have any off-the-field issues, play all four years, go to the combine, go to the Senior Bowl, do good at both, have a good Pro Day. I tried to do everything right.

Why it’s embarrassing is because I look beyond myself. I talk to a lot of kids, including a kid who’s a sophomore or junior at one of the high schools back home.

He was like, ‘Did you get drafted?’ And I told him that I didn’t. And he didn’t text me back for a while, and it kind of made me feel bad. That’s the embarrassing part — I was supposed to be this example for this kid and I’ve done everything right and I still don’t get my name called. It really hit home.

There’s no doubt that Williams getting injured halfway through the season was a huge blow to his draft prospects, even though he did rebound to play in the Sun Bowl and the Senior Bowl. You could also argue his development at Notre Dame — playing as a true freshman, bouncing between both 4-3 and 3-4 fronts, and being really the only true nose tackle on the roster — hurt him just as badly.

But for every Ryan Simms, a top-ten pick that’s now resurfacing in the UFL Draft, there’s a John Randle, who went undrafted out of tiny Texas A&I on his way to the Hall of Fame. And while Williams’ virtues still didn’t get him noticed by NFL teams (it’s always sad when a guy that does it right — no arrests, graduating in four years, a good person), those virtues are the ones that will help him stick on an NFL roster.

The draft process with Williams, which has been wonderfully chronicled by the South Bend Tribune, has been illuminating — with Williams reflecting on Michael Floyd, the future of the Irish, and just about everything else. No doubt, these articles likely fueled some of the embarrassment, each one of these diary entries assuming that he’d be selected at least somewhere.

If there’s a silver lining in the process, Williams gets an additional few weeks to merely let football sit off to the side for a while, when he’ll reap the fruits of his labors at Notre Dame, with graduation slated for later this month.

Williams talks Blue-Gold, NFL Draft

Getty Images - Jonathan Daniel
1 Comment

What would we do without Ian Williams? As much as I’m ready to banish the idea of Todd McShay and Mel Kiper from my head, the upcoming NFL Draft means more weekly musings from Williams as he prepares for the NFL Draft at the South Bend Tribune.

Since you guys should just go over there and read about it I won’t post the whole thing, but here are a few snippets that I found interesting.

Williams on the Blue-Gold game:

“The weather was crappy as usual, but besides that the team looked pretty good.”

(Having stood about 10 feet away from Williams on the sideline I can definitely agree with both statements.)

Probably of more interest to Irish fans were Williams’ thoughts on touted freshman Aaron Lynch, and quarterbacks Andrew Hendrix and Everett Golson.

I like how Aaron Lynch plays. He makes a lot of plays but he may not be in exactly that right gap that Coach Diaco or Coach Elston may want him in.

Just for him to be able to go out and make tackles and be able to run around and have fun is half of it. I think this summer he’ll work hard on memorizing his plays and getting stronger.

On offense, quarterback Andrew Hendrix has gotten much better than where he was last fall, running the scout team. In the spring game, he looked really comfortable. When he was back there against us for scout team in the fall, you could tell he was a freshman, so he made a few mistakes.

But you could see at times he had glimpses of great throws, and he’d break out of the pocket and make a great run. So he has all the ability. He needs to put it all together, which he will soon.

Freshman quarterback Everett Golson brings that elusiveness. You could probably do a package with him or put him out at receiver. I don’t know what Coach Kelly has in store for Everett, but it’s hard to keep athletes like Everett off the field.

Williams appraisal of Lynch is probably one of the best you’ll find, considering he knows the schematics being taught to the talented freshman by Diaco and Elston, but he’s also able to acknowledge the potential Lynch has without messing with the player-coach dynamic.

It’ll be up to Lynch to work this summer with his teammates to get mentally prepared for a season where he’ll have the opportunity to contribute immediately. One thing that’ll be a great advantage for Lynch is having two veteran defensive ends in front of him. It might be tougher for Lynch to take snaps if Ethan Johnson and Kapron Lewis-Moore need to come off the field for it to happen, but he’ll have two tutors that have played a ton of football in front of him and teaching him in the months where it’s up to the veteran leaders to organize and run football activities.