Ole Miss’ Sam Williams is one of the most intriguing pass rushers available in the 2022 NFL Draft. After a highly successful stint at the JUCO level, Williams recorded an astounding 32.5 sacks in three seasons while playing in the most competitive conference in the nation. Williams impacts opposing pockets by blending an excellent get-off with the ability to convert speed to power. In the run game, Williams is a hard-nosed player that successfully sets the edge.
Williams recently spoke exclusively with The Draft Network regarding his JUCO and D-I experiences, his major takeaways from the combine, his pass rush arsenal, why he loves defending the run, how Ole Miss prepared him for the next level, and so much more.
JM: Your NFL draft journey took you through the JUCO ranks before you arrived at Ole Miss. What was your JUCO experience like, and what are the main differences between JUCO and D-1?
SW: It was rough at first until I got the hang of it. At the time, I moved to Mississippi alone. I really didn’t know anybody. It was truly just me. I didn’t know a single soul in Mississippi at the time. I had never left the state of Alabama. JUCO is just different from D-I. There’s only so much you can do.
The focus required at D-I is different because there are so many more distractions and people pulling in you in different directions. JUCO is such a small community. People can get thrown off track at JUCO because it can be boring and repetitive for some, but you have to maintain focus. You have to keep yourself busy and focused. There wasn’t anything to do in that small town, especially in Booneville, Mississippi.
JM: I hear a lot of similar JUCO stories. You eventually joined Ole Miss and recorded 32.5 sacks in three seasons, including a career-high 12.5 sacks in 2021. That was your first double-digit sack season at Ole Miss. What changed for you this past season?
SW: I knew it was my last year at Ole Miss to prove what I’m all about. I just locked in. I felt like I was at JUCO all over again. I had to forget everything else and really just lock in. Everything handled itself from there. Football became my life and I became a student of the game. We had some new coaches and I really bonded with them. We had some great new coaches. They taught me how to watch film and study the game. I learned so much from them.
They taught me how to practice in a more efficient manner. I started doing the little things right. I changed my practice habits. I ran to the ball harder. I was practicing different moves that I was going to use in games. The game became 100 times easier for me.
JM: Do you feel like playing against SEC competition on a weekly basis helped prepare you for the next level?
SW: Of course it did, yes. Playing in the SEC is the closest you can get to playing in the NFL at the collegiate level. Doing what I did in the SEC, it gives me confidence that I can repeat that success in the NFL, especially in our defense. We ran a three-man front so I was getting double and even triple-teamed most of the time. If I can consistently get those one-v-one matchups that I’ve always dreamed about, I feel like I’ll take that next step forward.
JM: That’s a great point. Who are some of the best offensive tackles you’ve ever had to play against?
SW: Charles Cross and Evan Neal immediately come to mind. Texas A&M had a great left tackle, but his name escapes me at this moment (Jahmir Johnson). I’ve played against a lot of great tackles. To be honest with you, I can’t say that I’ve played against any bad tackles. The SEC is loaded with stellar tackles. Every tackle tries their best, and I do the same. May the best man win.
JM: You had some exciting battles. Your ability to get after the quarterback excites me, and I know scouts feel the same. How would you describe your pass rush arsenal?
SW: I feel like I’m a dangerous pass rusher because I can switch it up in so many different ways. It just depends on how the offensive tackle sets, how they approach the rep and how they move their feet. I can open up a whole different wardrobe of pass-rushing moves depending on the situation.
JM: It pops on tape. What was your experience like at the combine, and what were your main takeaways from the event?
SW: I started playing football in the 12th grade. It was all new to me. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t grow up watching the combine, but I have been watching it since my teammates started participating. Other than that, it was relatively new to me. I was well prepared for the interview process because I was at the Senior Bowl and I gained some terrific experience there. The interview process was very similar. I was already used to meeting the coaches and I understand how to conduct myself. The format was similar, especially with the informal visits.
JM: You definitely had some great experiences. What’s the best game you ever played in an Ole Miss jersey?
SW: My first year when we played at Arkansas. That was the first time I saw my biological mother at one of my games. That was the first game she attended.
JM: Wow. That sounds like a special moment. I need you to expand on that for me.
SW: She told me she was coming to the game. She had called me a few times before and tried to make it to a few games, but something would always pop up. Either we didn’t have the financial resources for it to happen or whatever. I remember that Arkansas game like it was yesterday. I recorded this sack, or maybe it was a tackle for loss, and somehow she just stood out in the crowd to me. I remember doing an interview after the game and tears just started falling down my face. I was like wow, my mother was finally in the crowd.
There were probably 100,000 people at that game and I swear to God she’s one that I saw when I made a big play in the backfield. As soon as I looked up, she’s the only person I saw. Isn’t that crazy? And she was celebrating like crazy (laughs). I recorded another sack later in the game. I played a great game. It’s so memorable for me.
JM: I have goosebumps. I’m thankful you shared that emotional story with us, and we couldn’t be happier for you to be going through this process. You’re not a pass-rushing specialist that’s considered to be a limited player. You can play on first and second down and set the edge in the run game. What do you enjoy about that aspect of the game?
SW: I just love playing football. It’s the best feeling. Stopping the run on first and second down? Rushing the passer on third down? I love it all. I love to learn. I love to impact the game. I love showing that I’m capable of playing in both areas of the game. I don’t even know how else to explain it. I get a thrill from playing football and stopping the run. You wanna run the ball to my side of the field? Ok, lock in, and let’s do it (laughs).
JM: You consistently play with that sort of intensity so I know exactly what you mean. If you could hand-pick the quarterback to be the victim of your first professional sack, who would you choose and why?
SW: I want Tom Brady or Patrick Mahomes. Brady is a legend. He’s the best to ever do it. He’s the GOAT, man. If I’m not playing with Brady next season as teammates, I want to sack him. I wanna sack him like three times (laughs). If I could sack Brady, I don’t even think I would celebrate like that. I think I would just help him up and tell him thank you. Thank you for coming back so I can have an opportunity to sack you (laughs).
JM: That’s hilarious (laughs). We’re going to keep these receipts if the Buccaneers draft you. I’ve really appreciated your time today. In closing, what kind of impact is Sam Williams going to make at the next level?
SW: I want to serve as a shining example for the kids. I want that to be my biggest impact. I want the youth to know that it doesn’t matter where you come from. It doesn’t matter where you start. It’s all about how you finish, you know?
When people see my story, when they see what I’ve been through to get where I am today, I just want it to give the kids hope. I want them to have some faith that they can make it out of their situation. It can’t all be sunshine and rainbows. You have to put the work in. You always have to work for everything you want in life. Nothing is going to be handed to you, but you can improve your situation by dedicating yourself to the work. But there’s a rainbow at the end of the road. I promise.
- Aug 22, 2022
- Aug 22, 2022