Over the last decade no player has come to NC State with more promise and potential than Richlands (NC) DE Mario Williams. Measuring in at 6-6, 255 pounds, Williams appeared as though he was chiseled out of rock and boasted a blend of size, speed and athleticism that is rarely seen on the high school level.
While at Richlands, Williams used all of his physical tools to become a terror for opposing teams. As a senior he tallied 87 tackles, 13 sacks, 22 tackles for loss and five blocked kicks. On offense he rushed for 590 yards and three touchdowns, all the while earning interest and offers from virtually every school in the nation. If his regular season production wasn’t enough, he solidified himself as one of the nation’s best defensive ends when he collected four sacks.
Although he committed to NC State in early February of his junior year, Williams still toyed around with the idea of exploring other schools and gave teams like Tennessee, South Carolina, Ohio State and Clemson consideration. However, the factors that sold Williams on the Pack early on were nailed home by then-wide receiver’s coach Doc Holliday and reaffirmed his commitment to NC State after his official visit to Raleigh in December of 2002.
Out of the gate, expectations for Williams were through the roof. However, the fact of the matter was, while he was light years ahead of the players around him physically, Williams’ football knowledge of the defensive end position was fairly limited. Even so, the freshman started all 13 games of the 2003 season- registering 56 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and five sacks to go along with seven QB hurries, five pass breakups and two caused fumbles en route to freshman all-american honors from Football News, Football Writers and The Sporting News.
Williams stepped it up a notch in 2004 despite increased attention from opposing offenses. Although he played in two fewer games and with roughly 170 fewer snaps, Williams still managed 57 tackles, six sacks and 15 tackles for loss en route to all-ACC honors.
2005 would prove to be Williams break out year on the national landscape when he totaled 67 tackles, 27.5 tackles for loss, 14.5 sacks and 23 QB hurries- earning first team all-american honors from Sports Illustrated and second team honors from Walter Camp. He was also named all-conference for the second consecutive year. His tackles for loss and sack totals were the best in NC State history. He also set the Wolfpack career record with 55.5 tackles for loss and his 25.5 sacks tied for the best in NC State history.
Williams would decide to forego his senior season and declared for the NFL draft in 2006. He became the first ACC player in league history to earn the number one pick in that year’s NFL draft.