Williams a Different Breed

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Covering Brennan Williams's left shoulder and chest is a tattoo of a koi fish climbing a waterfall and a senshi, which is Japanese for warrior.

"The whole thing behind the koi fish climbing the waterfall is when a koi fish climbs a waterfall the legend says, ‘He becomes a dragon,'" Williams said. "So it's kind of like reminiscence of my journey as a player and a person."

The junior right offensive tackle from West Roxbury, Mass. is making his mark on the gridiron. Williams, a reserve his first two seasons, has emerged as the leading candidate to replace the graduated Mike Ingersoll this fall for the Tar Heels.

"I'm going to tell you the guy that I feel like has done an outstanding job and that's Brennan Williams," UNC coach Butch Davis said last week. "And everybody is going to say, ‘Why Brennan Williams? Why the right offensive tackle, No. 73, that played a little bit for us last year?' Every day that he goes to practice, the guy he has to look across the line at is Quinton Coples. Every single time the ball is snapped. We have seen his improvement every single day. He's getting better and better and better."

The junior has an advantage over most college football players -- an inside source on how to block defensive linemen and what techniques work well against them. His father, Brent Williams, was a defensive lineman for the New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks and New York Jets in the late-1980s and early 90s.

His dad's advice and his daily battles in practice with Coples will only give him a leg up when the season rolls around. He and Travis Bond are the new faces up front, but hope to bring a physical and domineering presence to the trenches.

UNC guard Jonathan Cooper says that while he and James Hurst represent the smart side on the left, Bond and Williams represent the strong side on the right. Those differences are advantageous for the Tar Heels, especially as they get more experience practicing and playing together.

"I think we're going to be a more physical offensive line," Williams said. "You're going to see a lot more aggressiveness as it comes to running the ball, and we're going to have to step it up as a unit to protect our younger quarterback."

Protection should not be a problem for this unit as it will rarely face a defensive line in a game that's as good as the one it faces in practice. They only gave up two sacks in Saturday's spring game, and another encouraging stat is the 134 yards they racked up on the ground.

Williams tries to separate himself, not just as a player, but also as a person. Whether it's his dreadlocks with blonde tips, his skull earrings, his ripped jeans or his stature – checking in at 6-foot-7 and 325 pounds – the junior sticks out. He's different.

At least that's how his teammate Christian Wilson describes him.

"His personality is funny," Wilson said. "He's not like the average lineman you would see. The things that he does, the things that he wears, the way he looks is just funny."

Wilson may not be trying to model his wardrobe after Williams's, but the senior from Pennsylvania saw the right tackle's gauged earrings and immediately wanted a pair.

Williams doesn't try to model himself after a rock star, but nonetheless achieves that result in the sense of being flashy. He enjoys being unique.

"He has a painting in his room from his girlfriend's mom," tight end Nelson Hurst said. "It's a bear with a sword fighting a dragon that's spitting fire on him, so it's one of those things that my friendship with Brennan is I'm not surprised by anything that he does. He will do anything, and I'm just to the point where I'm just like, ‘That's Brennan.'"

But Williams's interest in art exceeds paintings on his wall. While in high school he received state recognition for his artwork.

"Mine was a digital piece," Williams said. "It's called, ‘Rawr.' It actually won a silver key. It was in the newspaper, and it was in the art gallery. It was pretty cool. It felt legit. I felt like I needed to put on a turtle neck, and go out there."

His interest in everything Japanese is just as strong as his love for art. It started as a kid when his dad came back from a trip to Japan and brought him a video game, which got him into martial arts. Williams took tae-kwon-do as a kid, and has just started taking it again at a studio in Carrboro, N.C.

The Massachusetts native feels badly for the people of Japan after seeing the devastation the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis left. He says it's tough to see that, but that has not changed his mind from wanting to go there one day and wrestle.

His primary goal is to play in the NFL, but if that does not work out, he hopes to be a professional wrestler in Japan.

"It's called Puro Wrestling," Williams said. "It's like there equivalent to WWF."

Like his tattoo of the koi fish climbing the waterfall and the senshi, Williams is going to keep battling Coples in practice. He knows he will be better for it, because he is sure it will make him a warrior in the trenches this coming season.

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