"I was thinking that I was going to go to Tampa because we had such a great relationship when I was at the Senior Bowl so I expected to go (to Tampa Bay), but at the same time, I didn't know. But Coach Gruden (Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden), his staff and myself got along well down at the Senior Bowl.
"When we were at the combine and I was about to run the 40, Coach Gruden came over to the gate and said, ‘I'll be calling you in a couple of weeks.' And I was like, ‘All right coach--I'll be waiting for that phone call.' That's when I got the feeling there was a real good possibility that I was going to be a Buccaneer."
Gruden and his staff had an eye on the 5-11, 217-pound runner during the Senior Bowl workouts, and Williams' efforts in Mobile and throughout his career at Auburn were good enough to make him the second Auburn running back chosen in the top five of the 2005 draft.
Williams and Ronnie Brown, who was selected second overall by the Miami Dolphins, made history Saturday by becoming the first pair of running backs from the same school in the common NFL draft history to be taken in the first 10 picks or the first five. Only three other times have two running backs from the same school been drafted in the first round and the last time it happened was in 1987 when Roger Vick of Texas A&M was the 21st pick to the Jets and Rod Bernstine the 24th pick to the Chargers.
"Just being around him, you feel energy," Gruden says of the Auburn star who is nicknamed "The Cadillac."
"You hand him a ball, you think good things are going to happen," Gruden says. "There's no point in my coaching career, two guys that shared the ball as unselfishly and productively as they did at Auburn. You're getting a character guy that's going to be there everyday for you, working his butt off to help our football team win.
"We saw that at close range and I wasn't alone," Gruden adds. "It was our special teams coach, it was our defensive staff, it was our scouting department--it was everybody. He made quite an impression."
On announcing the decision to pick Williams, Gruden said, "(I am) very proud to announce our first-round selection, Carnell Williams. We were hoping he would be there in a lot of ways. Obviously, he's a great football player. Versatile. Fast. Tough. And when it's all said and done, I think this is a guy that really wants to be great. Tremendous drive. Very self-motivated from a team that went 13-0 and fits nicely in what we want to do here, offensively."
Carnell Williams works out for NFL scouts on the Auburn campus.
Commenting on the decision to the running back over another Williams, Southern Cal wide receiver Mike Williams, Gruden says there wasn't much debate about which way to go. "Not so much today. We've had enough meetings here for the last three or four weeks. Having not made the playoffs, we've had plenty of meetings. We've been looking at the draft for enough time. I think Mike Williams is a great player. (He) certainly was considered, as were some other guys that have been picked and some that are still available. Carnell is a guy we know, we want and we're excited about it."
Gruden says that the Bucs may use Auburn's Williams as a return man, something he did for the Tigers on kickoffs and punts. "He'll be an option. Obviously, his number one focus right now is to be a halfback here in this system. That's obviously a very broad position, the way we envision using him. But certainly, having a guy like Mike Alstott, some veteran backs like (Michael) Pittman and guys who have played here and understand what we're looking for, I think the learning curve will increase quickly."
Commenting on the Cadillac's running ability in the red zone, Gruden says, "If you watch Auburn, okay, he's the one with all the touchdowns. He's the guy playing on the goal line and carrying the ball on third-and-one. That's one of the things that was loud and clear to us. This guy scores touchdowns, he converts third downs and he runs the clock out when they have a lead late in games.
"I'm not concerned about him carrying the ball in any situation, and I'm certainly not worried about the physical status of Carnell Williams. This guy is a load, and I think he'll prove that when he gets here. He's physically very put-together, and he's 217 pounds the last I saw him. I think that's a comfortable weight for him."
Williams says he was disappointed he wasn't invited to New York by the NFL for the draft like teammate Ronnie Brown was, but says he and his family have enjoyed watching it at home in Attalla. "I really believe that this is one of the biggest things to happen in this town," Williams notes. "Everybody is so excited for me, coming out of a small town like this. There's a big celebration going on. We cooked for about 100 people."