Williams, Walford look like the draft's best TEs
INDIANAPOLIS – Maxx Williams remembers the cold tub best. Except, for the 5-year-old Williams, the water always was warm.
Swimming with Dad was his favorite pastime. There was no better place than Giants Stadium's home locker room. Brian Williams spent 11 seasons as the Giants' center. After games, father and son would grab swim trunks and splash around.
Brian's was filled with ice. Maxx's felt like a bath.
"It was a great experience," said Williams, considered one of the top tight ends at the NFL scouting combine. "Having my dad play in the NFL and growing up around that kind of atmosphere, being able to be in a locker room, just seeing what the game was all about. The actual inside the NFL and what football truly is, I think that's helped me in my career."
At each step, Williams followed in his father's footsteps. Like his dad, Williams played college football at Minnesota. Like his dad, he starred after redshirting his first season.
In just two seasons, Williams finished seventh among Minnesota tight ends with 61 career receptions, third with 986 receiving yards. His 13 career touchdown catches ranked 10th all-time among players at any position. These were more than dink-and-dunk receptions. Williams averaged 16 yards per catch during his career.
Now, he wants to follow his father's footsteps again. Brian was a first-round draft pick in 1989, leaving Minnesota early to start his NFL career. Like his father, Maxx also hopes to be a first-round pick. One possibility may be Green Bay, one of 21 teams Williams said he'll interview with this week at the combine.
"I think just the fact that you're going in the first round would be a great honor," Williams said. "Not many people can say they're (in) the first round, and not many people can say they went in the first round and so did their father. So having the opportunity to go in the first round, it would be a moment I'd remember for the rest of my life."
Tight end likely doesn't top Green Bay's draft wish list, but general manager Ted Thompson could address the position early in the draft.
The Packers spent a third-round pick on Richard Rodgers last season, and he impressed as a rookie. Late in the season, quarterback Aaron Rodgers said his rookie tight end might have the best hands on the team. But with a 40-yard dash in the 4.8-second range, Richard Rodgers isn't a speed burner.
Williams, who will try to beat his 4.58-second, 40-yard-dash time when he runs in Indianapolis later this week, has the speed to stretch the field vertically. Green Bay could afford to add another dimension to a passing game that heavily relied on receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb last season.
If the Packers add Williams, it will almost certainly have to be with their No. 30 pick in the first round. Even then, it's no guarantee he'll still be available. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound 20-year-old made enough plays at Minnesota to be ranked the No. 1 tight end entering this week's combine.
Another option could be Miami tight end Clive Walford.
Technically, the 6-4, 251-pounder is ranked No. 2 among tight ends. He has a second-round projection, potentially putting him in play if Green Bay wants to use its first pick on a bigger need at inside linebacker, or perhaps defensive tackle.
Walford, who said he'll interview with the Packers, bluntly disagreed with his "second-best" distinction.
"I am the best tight end in this draft," he said.
Walford took a different route to this week's combine. Unlike Williams, his college career spread over five seasons. He started 37 straight games at Miami, a constant fixture in the Hurricanes' offense.
A knee injury knocked Walford from his final regular-season game. He was sidelined during Miami's bowl loss to South Carolina, and the injury required surgery. Walford said Wednesday the injury was incorrectly reported to be a torn MCL. It wasn't, but his knee felt only "85, 90" percent at last month's Senior Bowl.
Walford didn't have to participate at the Senior Bowl. He could've rested for the combine, but he said it was important for him to show his toughness to scouts.
Now, Walford said the knee feels fully healed. He'd like to use a solid week in Indianapolis to challenge Williams for the top spot among tight ends.
On Wednesday, Walford made it clear what he believes a team will get when he's drafted.
"A dominant player," Walford said. "A dual-threat tight end. A competitor. A will to win. I play with my heart, so they're going to get somebody who will lay it on the line every down. … I can block, I can catch, I can run after the catch, do everything that a tight end is expected to do.
"I feel that I've already proven myself. I just have to go out and be consistent, and all the doubters, just put them to sleep."
Williams won't make it easy. His combination of size, speed and bloodline is rare for a tight end.
Internally, Williams' fuel comes from a source most prospects don't get. Football is his family's business. He'd like nothing more than to one day splash around in the locker room tubs with his son.
"At this point, I'd say it's a dream come true for me," Williams said. "I went into college football with my dream of playing in the pros. It's all just kind of been a dream right now, going through this whole process. It just all memories I'm making for myself."
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood.