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NFL Draft

Trill Williams: 2021 NFL Draft Prospect Interview Series

  • The Draft Network
  • March 19, 2021
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Every NFL defense wants versatile, dynamic playmakers who can make big things happen all over the field against both the run and pass.

One of the most versatile defensive weapons in the 2021 NFL Draft class? Syracuse’s Trill Williams, who can immediately transform any NFL defense upon his arrival. Williams is a long, athletic, rangy, and physical player with an exceptional skill set.

Williams spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his ability to play every position in the secondary, growing up with five siblings, and which NFL players he would love to sit down and study the game with.

Oh, and we also bonded over our love of 1990s and early-2000s wrestling.

JM: You grew up with five siblings, four sisters, and one brother to be specific. What was your household like growing up?

TW: It was really competitive. One of my older sisters played almost every sport growing up. She played basketball, volleyball, and softball just to name a few. I looked up to her. I always wanted to compete against her. She made me the athlete I am today. We were always competitive with one another. It was pretty cool.

JM: I bet it was one of those households where one kid was always laughing and one kid was always crying. That’s usually the case when there are four or more kids in one household.

TW: Yeah, it was. It was crazy because I was the one doing most of the crying (laughs).

JM: That’s hilarious (laughs). You’ve been competitive from a young age. It followed you to high school. You played damn near every position there. You played running back, cornerback, and wide receiver. How do you think that experience aided your overall development?

TW: It helped me out big time. I was able to play all of those positions and learn so many different techniques. When I started to play on the defensive side of the ball full time, I always remembered how I tried to attack defenders when I was playing running back or receiver.

My background on offense definitely helped me develop into a better defensive back. At the end of the day, you don’t really know where the receiver is going unless you can think like one. It helped my progress a lot.

JM: It’s funny because you get to Syracuse and you are used all over the field too. You continued that trend. You started this past year at free safety, but you’ve played a ton of snaps at cornerback and at nickel as well. What do you think it is about your skill set that allows you to move around like that?

TW: I’m a smart player. That comes first. Coming in as a true freshman, Syracuse asked me to learn all three of those positions. For a young kid coming out of high school, that can be a tall task. They asked me to learn different positions and schemes right off the bat.

I did it. It mostly had to do with me just being smart on the field. I had that awareness. It ties in with being able to play multiple positions. I always go out there and have fun while playing football. Being smart in the film room, that’s the ultimate key.

JM: It shows on tape. Have you been able to get a consensus on where the NFL sees you playing at the next level based on your conversations with teams so far?

TW: It’s crazy because there hasn’t really been a consensus. A lot of teams are saying cornerback, other teams are saying free safety, and the rest of them are saying nickel. It’s really a toss-up. It ultimately depends on who drafts me and what they run on defense.

I hope they use me like Syracuse used me. I don’t have to come off the field. We can call a play in any package. As long as you tell me to rotate to safety or corner based on the look, I’m good.

JM: That’s the best way to utilize you at the next level. Speaking of scheme, what can you tell me about the Syracuse defense? What are some basic talking points of the defense, and what did your coaches specifically ask of you?

TW: We ran a 3-3-5 this year. We had a new defensive coordinator. My role was to lock down the best receiver in the slot. I played against guys like Dazz Newsome. Obviously, he’s a pretty good receiver. He was one of the best receivers in the ACC. I covered these receivers and if you look at the numbers, they speak for themselves. I was rarely targeted in the passing game. 

It’s rare that I give up a touchdown. I gave up three touchdowns at Syracuse. That’s one touchdown per year. I just go out there and play man coverage. A lot of people say that I have to improve in man coverage but go look at the stats when I played man coverage. The numbers tell the story.

JM: Would you say that you prefer playing more man than zone?

TW: I most definitely do. I feel like when I go out there and play press man, I don’t think anybody can get by me.

JM: You talked about playing in that 3-3-5 with a new defensive coordinator this past season. You’ve played in several different defenses under multiple defensive coordinators at Syracuse. You’ve been exposed to a lot.

TW: That’s correct. We had coach Brian Ward during my freshman and sophomore years. We played a lot of man coverage under him too. We played a lot of Tampa 2 as well. A lot of teams nowadays are starting to run more Tampa 2. That scheme fits me well too. Hopefully, teams see the schemes I’ve played in and realize that I can play in any scheme. I’ve been exposed to it all just like you said. It’s another reason that I’m so versatile.

JM: I love what you said about man coverage. You have terrific length. It jumps off the screen. You’re a long, rangy guy. How do you use that to your advantage at the catch point?

TW: My length is a big asset of mine. I played in the slot a lot. I played against some big tight ends and some smaller receivers too. When I play against those smaller receivers, it’s crucial to get your hands on them because they’re so fast. If I can neutralize their speed by playing man and pressing them at the line, I have the upper hand. Playing against those bigger tight ends, I’m strong so my strength alone slows them down. It’s a win-win for me in both situations.

JM: Speaking of your strength, you’re incredibly physical and aggressive on tape. How did you develop that mindset as a player?

TW: That goes back to when I was younger. When I first started playing football, I was actually a huge wrestling fan. When I first started, my dad always told me, when you go make a tackle, tackle like [WWE superstar] Edge (laughs). His move was the spear, which of course is illegal nowadays (laughs). That’s how it all started. Watching WWE, that really made me a more aggressive tackler.

JM: I loved watching wrestling growing up. Edge is actually from my hometown of Toronto. I was at WrestleMania X8 in Toronto when The Rock fought Hulk Hogan. I’m curious now, who were some of your other favorite wrestlers?

TW: I would say my top five is Jeff Hardy, Randy Orton, Shawn Michaels, I have to throw John Cena in there outta respect. I’m not gonna count Edge because we already talked about him (laughs). It’s really tough because there were so many great ones. I gotta go with The Undertaker.

JM: How do you not have The Rock in there?

TW: It’s crazy because I didn’t really grow up on The Rock. He was already making movies in Hollywood when I started watching.

JM: That’s fair. Sometimes I forget you guys get younger every year (laughs). You put Shawn Michaels in there though. I guess he lasted a little longer.

TW: Yeah, he was still wrestling around 2013 from what I recall.

JM: I’m glad you said The Undertaker. You can’t have a top-five list without him.

TW: Yeah, most definitely. I felt like they should have never let him lose that undefeated streak he had going at WrestleMania.

JM: Man, I was so disappointed when that happened. To Brock Lesnar of all people. There were more worthy candidates.

TW: I mean, if it had to be anybody, Brock Lesnar is a beast. I was cool with it being him if it had to be somebody. But I still think it should have never happened.

JM: I tried to get into it again recently during quarantine. I don’t know. It’s not bad, but it’s not the same.

TW: That’s true because I’ve gotten back into it lately as well. I feel like the best wrestler right now is Roman Reigns.

JM: I agree. He’s a beast. Did you know he was related to Rikishi and Yokozuna?

TW: Yeah, that family is crazy (laughs). They’re all wrestlers. He’s part of that same family bloodline. The tag-team The Usos are part of the same family.

JM: And Edge is back now.

TW: Yeah (laughs). It’s funny, he’s gonna wrestle Roman Reigns at this year’s WrestleMania.

JM: See, I’m gonna tune into that. That’s a must-watch right there.

TW: That’s tough because I like both of them. I didn’t wanna see them fight one another (laughs).

JM: You know what though, they needed to have something big at WrestleMania. It’s gonna be a great match.

TW: You’re right about that. They should have brought The Rock back so he could fight Roman Reigns.

JM: That would be crazy. It would take a lot of money to bring The Rock out of retirement again.

TW: If I was in charge of making the booking, that’s what I would have done (laughs).

JM: I hope the readers enjoy the little wrestling intermission we just had there (laughs). We’ve now reached the virtual part of the draft. You’re meeting with NFL teams via Zoom. How is that process going for you so far? [Editor’s note: This interview was completed on February 26.]

TW: With COVID-19 going on, it feels like doing things virtually is the new norm. It’s really about getting adjusted and how fast you can get adjusted. If you prepare properly now, you’ll carry over those good habits with you to the NFL. That’s how you can learn the playbook and the faster you do that, the faster you get on the field. 

The process has been good to me. I’ve spoken with roughly 16 teams so far. They’ve all gone really well. This process is pretty cool. I can’t wait to find out where I’m going.

JM: I love that, man. What do you think is the best game you ever played in a Syracuse jersey?

TW: I think the best games I ever played were against Clemson. Those were my best performances. Even though we didn’t win those games, those games brought the best out of me. When you’re playing against a talented team like Clemson, that’s where you wanna thrive and bring your best. Those are first-round prospects you’re going up against. It just brings out the competitor in me. My freshman game against Clemson, my sophomore game against Clemson, I played a great game. I didn’t get to play against them this past year unfortunately because I was injured. If I had to pick a best game from my 2020 season, I would say it was against Pittsburgh.

JM: You were great in all of those games. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about your strengths. We’ve touched on your ability to play man coverage, to play multiple positions in several different schemes, your strength, your aggressiveness, your length. What would you say are some areas of your game that you need to improve in?

TW: If you ever ask a player that question and they don’t have anything to say, they’re lying. Everybody has an area of their game they can get better in. For me, I’m working on trusting my eyes a bit more. I watch a lot of film, and I trust my game, but when I’m out there, I see the plays develop and I can be a bit quicker to get on my horse. Sometimes, it results in me getting a PBU when I could have gotten an interception or even a pick-six. I need to better trust my skill set and what I see on the field. When I do that, it’ll help me become a better player.

JM: Because you’re such a unique player and you’ve played so many positions, I’m curious as to which defensive players you’d love to sit down with and discuss the game with?

TW: There’s two of them that come to mind for me. I’d love to speak with Jamal Adams and Tyrann Mathieu. Jamal Adams is such a physical player. He gets to the ball and he’s a tough hitter. Tyrann Mathieu is a ballhawk. He always finds a way to get to the ball. 

Those qualities and those players, if you watch my tape, you’ll see that I can come downhill and be aggressive like Jamal Adams, or I can take the ball away and go score like Tyrann Mathieu can. If I ever get a chance to talk with those two guys and see what they see on the field, that would be tremendous for me.

JM: Those are two great choices. I’ve really appreciated your time today, Trill. This has been fantastic. I feel like you’ve allowed me to give our readers a close look into the mind of one of the most exciting and unique playmakers in this draft class. For that, I thank you.

In closing, what kind of impact is Trill Williams going to make at the next level?

TW: Just like Terrell Owens used to say, get your popcorn ready. Throughout my years, I’ve always had fun on the field. I’ve always made big plays. People remember certain plays and those are the ones I’m trying to make. You’re gonna see me make big plays at the next level. 

I’m gonna live around the ball. I’m always gonna give this game everything I have. That’s one thing I’m always gonna do. I’ve never cut corners before and I don’t plan on starting now.

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