Williams Has Had Eventful Year

Jesse Williams came from Down Under. This year it must have seemed that his entire world was upside down. And spinning.



Jesse Williams came to Alabama last December, a transfer from Arizona Western. The 6-4, 319-pound defensive end from Brisbane, Australia, has made a big impact on the Crimson Tide's run to the BCS National Championship Game. Bama's outstanding 11-1 season is only one of the factors that has affected him.

He was introduced to tornado season in the most violent weather attack in Tuscaloosa's history on April 27. A few weeks later his teammate in both junior college and for half a year at Alabama, Aaron Douglas, died while on vacation.

"It's been kind of life-changing in many different ways," Williams said. "I'm just trying to build on everything and try to get better every day and try to represent myself and my family in everything I try to work for."

Williams and his Alabama teammates will face LSU at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans on Monday, Jan. 9, for the national championship. If he gets that, it will be better than any Christmas gift he might have received.

Might have received.

"I didn't really receive anything," he said. "I mean, it's tough to mail anything from Australia and have it get here on time."

He and his roommate, defensive lineman Chris Bonds of Columbia, S.C., stayed in Tuscaloosa while their teammates had a couple of days to go home for Christmas. The two worked out together, including lifting weights on Christmas.

"Just jog around and work out and do whatever we can," Williams said.

Nevertheless, Williams felt rested as the Tide returned to practice this week. "The couple of days break always helps, not only for your body, but also mentally," he said. "It's good to get back and start focusing on the game. I think everyone is focused and ready to go."

Williams understands the concept of the one-game season that Coach Nick Saban has given the team. "It's a little bit different," Williams said. "We try to do everything we can preparation-wise to not go crazy with preparations, to take it one step at a time and do it how we do it.

"It's kind of just a really, really long week if you take it like that."

When the game is finally played a week from Monday, it will have been six weeks since the Tide finished regular season play with a 42-14 trouncing of Auburn.

The expectation is that LSU, with talented runner Jordan Jefferson at quarterback, will be more run-oriented than pass-happy against Alabama.

"I like rushing the passer, but if they want to try to run the ball on us, that would be good, too," Williams said. "We did the best we could the last time and I feel we did pretty good against their run. That's sort of the game we like – real physical and straight up."

LSU won the regular season meeting with a 9-6 overtime decision. The Tigers ran 41 times for 148 yards and completed 9-17 passes for 91 yards.

Williams said the first game gave him an idea of how LSU will play and that he is trying to improve by watching film. He's also working on his technique, a seemingly never-ending process.

He said the hype of the first game was not a factor in his play. "I take it one game at a time," he said.

He also said he wasn't worried about statistics, even though his defensive unit leads the nation in all major categories – rushing defense, passing defense, total defense, and scoring defense.

"We play hard, physical football and we don't worry about the stats," he said.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban was asked about the difficulties Williams might have had coming from Australia and from junior college inofar as having a "football IQ."

"We saw Jesse on film, as a freshman in junior college and thought he was one of the best defensive linemen in junior college – and certainly fit our style," Saban said. "With his size and initial quickness and strength at the point, all those types of things. I don't think it's football IQ that sometimes concerns you, but it's culture.

"I grew up throwing the ball to myself in the backyard trying to be Joe Belino or somebody who played at Navy, or rooting for some team to win the Super Bowl or my favorite college team. I'm talking about from the time I can remember as a kid. Jesse didn't grow up with any of that. He just started playing football when he was, I don't know, 14, 15 years old.

"And I think that he learns very quickly, he's improved a lot, and I think his understanding of what it takes to be a good player -- because he's such an intelligent guy and he is a competitor and he wants to be the best that he can be at what he does. But I don't know that he grew up culturally, with the passion that some of us do as fans or players or whatever, because he just wasn't exposed to it. That's not his fault.

"But he's made tremendous progress for a guy that has just played a limited number of years of football. But he is an instinctive player. There's a difference, to me. When we were in pros there were a couple of occasions – and I don't want to mention any names – where we had guys that were really physically talented that came from other countries or whatever. But they really weren't instinctive football players. Jesse is an instinctive football player. He's got natural reactions for the game. I think that's what helped him progress like he has."

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