Left tackle Williams postpones honeymoon for NFL draft

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Chris Williams had no problem persuading his new bride to postpone their honeymoon. Business comes first, and the left tackle from Vanderbilt is close to seeing his hard work and patience pay off.

The 6-foot-6, 315-pound tackle from Louisiana who wasn't even courted by his home state college could hear his name called within the first 20 selections of the NFL draft. That has made the waiting much easier.

"We hoped to be in this position where I got to go on a lot of visits. We hoped it would come. She's happy because I'm going to get a job soon," Williams said. "It's a good and a bad thing. I don't get to spend as much time with her as I want to. But it's for the better, our future."

Williams is in position to become only the second Vanderbilt offensive lineman drafted in the first round, the first since Will Wolford was the 20th pick overall in 1986.

Not bad for someone who only became a starter as a high school senior when another player didn't show up for a mandatory camp. When Vanderbilt coaches first looked at him, they took a leap of faith on a 6-foot-5, 245-pound kid turning into something special.

"We saw him run. He could just fly," Vanderbilt offensive line and assistant head coach Robbie Caldwell said.

The son of Joseph and Sandres Williams in Glynn, La., Williams worked with strength coach John Sisk and the head of Vanderbilt's training room, Majid "Magic" Noori. Williams added muscle with specialized meals, working his way to 260 pounds by Thanksgiving of his freshman year and 290 after Christmas.

"He's the poster child for our strength training program," said Sisk, who can pull up a computer photo of the skinny Williams who first showed up on campus.

A change in majors from engineering to human and organizational development cost Williams his eligibility in 2004, when he had been slated to start at center, leaving him to work on the scout team.

"And to know I was supposed to be starting? It was a long year to say the least," Williams said.

Williams alternated between left tackle and guard in 2005 helping protect quarterback Jay Cutler, who was the 11th pick overall in 2006 by Denver. He settled in at tackle in 2006 and 2007, and Caldwell counted two sacks allowed in those two seasons, one in the 2006 season opener at Michigan when the coach had missed practice that week due to his mother's death.

"He was more concerned about me," Caldwell said.

With long arms and good hands, Caldwell called Williams very technique-conscious and stronger than people realize. He also is very coachable.

"If you tell him to do something, you better tell him right because he's going to do it the way you tell him to do it," Caldwell said.

Williams played well enough against the speed rushers in the Southeastern Conference that he was chosen the team's MVP three times last year, and the Commodores ran all their goal-line plays behind him. He finished as a consensus first-team All-SEC by both coaches and the media.

"Because of his agility and his athletic ability, he stands out as a pass protector," Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said. "But he's not afraid to come off the ball and block for the run. They require him to pull or anything like that, he can do it."

He also organized a summer softball league with his teammates the past two years. When a ball knocked out his front teeth, he went to Caldwell to show off his new smile.

Williams graduated in December and stayed around Nashville to train with Sisk for the NFL combine. A 32 on the Wonderlic test isn't too surprising considering his older sister is an attorney, while his twin sister is studying chemistry. His father supervises an electrical plant back home.

The wedding was April 5 back in Louisiana, sandwiched between visits with NFL teams including Detroit, Tampa, Houston, Denver, St. Louis, the New York Giants, Kansas City and Washington.

If Denver drafts him, that would reunite Williams with Cutler. Williams is smart enough to understand he can't control where he winds up. That's one reason he is a recently retired fan of the
New Orleans Saints.

"I was a big Willie Roaf fan growing up. He was kind of the epitome of a left tackle in my book. If I grow up to be the player he was, I'll be a great player just like he was. It's not hard now. While I was a Saints fan, it's going to be my job not to be a fan," he said.

And when will Williams get to enjoy his honeymoon? Once he finds out when and where his new boss needs him to report to work.

"It depends on the timing," he said.