Since he left Mobile, Alabama back in January following the Senior Bowl game, Derrick Williams' total focus over the past few weeks has been on preparing for the NFL Scouting Combine evaluations in Indianapolis that will help determine when his name is called this April during NFL Draft weekend.
"Everything's focused on football. I work out in the morning from 8:00 until 1:30 to 2:00, with a little lunch in there, go back to work at 4:00 until about 5:00 and it's the same routine everyday," the wide receiver told Scout.com during a recent interview.
"The big thing right now is the Combine and Pro Days, so you're doing a lot of Combine-specific work. When you're not doing that you might work on your position. At this point, a lot of NFL players or coaches are coming in to help you out with things you need to learn about."
A playmaker in every sense of the word, Williams rolled up 1,412 all-purpose yards in 2008 for Penn State, topping his 1,121 yards during his junior year. In addition to catching passes and returning punts and kicks, Williams ran the ball from the line of scrimmage 16 times, averaging 7.8 yards per carry. And he scored practically every way possible, rushing for one touchdown, catching four touchdown passes, and returning two kickoffs and three punts for scores.
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Williams' ability to contribute immediately on special teams was a hot topic when NFL team representatives from across the league chatted with him in January during Senior Bowl week.
"They definitely noticed the special teams package that I can bring to a team," he said. "You can give the offense a boost and you can definitely change the game on any big special teams play you can provide.
"There are a lot of things that can go wrong on special teams, but there are one or two things that, if it goes right, it can change the game. Especially on punt returns, if you can make one guy miss, you can take it all the way."
At the pro level, Williams has the straight-line speed to be a deep threat, but he also has the quickness off the line to run short routes out of the slot. The 6-foot tall, 193-pound receiver not only believes that he can be effective at either position, he's also certain that he's capable of performing at an even higher level as he continues his development.
"One thing a lot of people don't know about me is that I'm still learning a lot as a receiver," Williams said. "I played quarterback my entire life, so my college years were my first years playing receiver.
"So every day I try to take in something new that somebody tells me about playing receiver that can help my game. I'm willing to learn and I'm willing to do everything that is going to make me the best receiver there is."
Williams learned the importance of being attentive during instruction and then executing it properly early in his football career. And he even learned how to handle hard coaching along the way, an experience that he's confident will help him respond positively to whatever coaching style he might be faced with daily at the next level.
"Everybody asks what kind of coach I want to play for and I just say somebody other than my dad," he said with a laugh. "He was one of the toughest coaches I ever had, my experience with my dad was the worst experience ever. So there's nothing anyone can do that can really get to me."
Derrick Williams breaks free for a touchdown against Wisconsin in October, 2008.
(AP Photo/Andy Manis)
With his experience at the quarterback position and the versatility he displayed running and catching the ball at Penn State, Williams will likely draw plenty of interest from NFL teams who have installed--or are considering installing — the Wildcat formation into their offensive playbook.
"Yeah, a lot of people are experimenting with that, trying to get their playmakers the ball in different ways. We ran that at Penn State and sometimes we were successful," he said. "That has to be built around the offensive scheme and the other guys you have out there, because you don't want to have just one guy that they're keying on. You have to have guys out there that the defense has to respect."
As NFL teams get to know the former Nittany Lions team captain, they'll be impressed with his candor, confidence and will undoubtedly see him as a highly likeable and respectful individual. But they'll be just as impressed by his well-rounded skill set, raw talent, and his absolute determination to be a top contributor to a team's success.
"During my rookie year, I want to be the best receiver and be the best player I can be, and help the team in any way I can," Williams said. "And if that includes special teams, which I love to do, that's what I plan on doing.
"This whole thing is like a dream come true. Even when I do my workouts, I always sit and try to think of how many people would like to be in my spot, so I try to take full advantage of it. There's going to be a day when you can't play football anymore, a day when people don't know who you are, a day when people don't ask for your autograph, so you might as well take advantage of it when you can. Everything happening right now is amazing."
Scout.com subscribers can click here to read an exclusive Q&A feature with Derrick Williams where he talks about his preparations for the NFL Combine, some highlights from his career at Penn State, what teams asked him about at the Senior Bowl and much more.
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A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com. You can contact him by email through this link.