NFL Draft Q&A: WR Derrick Williams

In Part II, Ed Thompson checks in with Derrick Williams to find out about what he's learned while preparing for the Combine, what teams were interested in when they talked to him at the Senior Bowl, his family background, and much more in this exclusive.

Ed Thompson: Are they teaching you anything interesting about running the 40-yard dash that you didn't think about before?

Derrick Williams: Mainly, the more relaxed you are, the faster you're going to run. You want to work on your start. And the more you run the 40, the better you're going to get at it because your body's going to get used to it. We've been doing all of those things and working on the shuttle, the vertical jump, most of the things you need to work on for the Combine.

Thompson: Are they preparing you for the gauntlet drill as well where you run the width of the field and quarterbacks throw to you from opposite sides?

Williams: Yeah, we watched the DVDs on the past players who have been to the Combine. The person you workout with tries to imitate that the best they can. We've practiced the gauntlet and drills like that, so it won't be new when we get to the Combine.

Thompson: During that drill, you also have to hope that the quarterbacks throw you some decent passes.

Williams: Yes, you definitely do. But you still have to look the ball in and run on a straight line.

Thompson: As a team captain you were highly respected at Penn State. Are there any moments that really stick out in your mind where you helped lift the team or a specific player?

Williams: This whole season stood out to me, especially after all the things that were being written before the season, some of the negative press we were receiving, and then how we ended the season with winning the Big Ten and going to the Rose Bowl and accomplishing a lot of our goals. We were one play, one second from going to the National Championship this year with an undefeated record, so there were so many things we accomplished that I was happy with as a captain.

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Thompson: Pick one or two plays that immediately pop into your mind as a highlight moment from your career at Penn State.

Williams: I can always say a touchdown catch or a kick return or punt return I scored on, but just being out there and playing with the team is what really stays with me. I can remember some key blocks I had when Tony Hunt was running the ball, my first crack-back block in college, the big catch I had when we played Northwestern my freshman year that really turned that season around, our success and winning the Big Ten. There are a lot of plays that I can think of, but some of the plays I really liked are the ones I watched in the film room and I had a crack-back that people weren't expecting.

Thompson: What kinds of questions were you asked by teams at the Senior Bowl, and how did you answer them?

Williams: They asked if I've graduated, and I graduated in the spring of last year. My major was recreation, park and tourism management. They asked about the system at the school you attended, and we were mainly three-wide. Something that was different about our offense is our receivers never ran themselves to get open. If you weren't open the play design would make someone else to be open, so you just had to play within the system as a receiver. They asked me where can I improve. Joe Paterno always told me I try to do too much, I try to make too many plays and sometimes I need to settle for the four- yard play, to catch the ball and try to get ten yards out of it instead of trying to do too much. My response to Joe was always if I'm going to touch the ball five times, I need to make one of them count, I need to make one of them a score. That's something that I need improve on. And of course, they ask you if you've been in any trouble, and you know when they ask you that, they already know. I've never been in trouble, never failed any blood test, never was arrested, never did any of those things.

Thompson: Tell us a bit about your family background.

Williams: I'm from Washington D.C. and I lived with my mother and my father and my grandad. My father was the Assistant A.D. at the University of Maryland, but he is now with the financing department in the Department of Energy. My mother works in the Human Resources Department at the University of Maryland. I have an older brother, Dominic, who played football for Mack Brown at North Carolina. Right now he's a police officer in Baltimore. My family's very supportive, we're church-going, and since I was a little kid they've been to every game except when my brother and I had games at the same time. 

Thompson: What do you do for fun when you're not playing football?

Williams: Go to the mall. I'm big on movies and video games, and I like to talk on the phone. 

Thompson: Do you just like to stroll around the mall or are you a shopper?

Williams: I'm a shopper. If there was something that I was addicted to, it might be shopping. I might have to go to counseling and say, 'I'm Derrick Williams and I have a shopping problem.' (laughs)

Thompson: What do you like to shop for the most?

Williams: Jeans, jackets, video games, movies.

Thompson: What's the best movie you saw most recently?

Williams: I'm still big on The Dark Knight right now. I saw Wanted and loved it. One thing I don't watch is scary movies, I don't do the scary movie thing. I don't see the joy in paying money to get scared when I can make myself scared for free. (laughs)

Thompson: How about your favorite video game?

Williams: Madden. I play Madden, College Football, 007, different things like that. One of my best friends I play Madden with is Derrick Harvey, the defensive end from Jacksonville. We went to high school together.

Click here to learn more about Derrick Williams.

A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the network and at You can contact him by email through this link.

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