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2022 NFL Draft: How Sam Williams went from JUCO to a top NFL prospect by attacking greatness in everything

Every NFL draft hopeful has a unique story about the grind it takes to become a professional athlete.

There are the naturally gifted who take up football in high school or the senior-season bloomers who unexpectedly shoot up draft boards. Then there’s Ole Miss edge defender Sam Williams — a prospect who wasn’t recruited out of high school but made a name for himself at a small junior college before eventually suiting up and thriving at a Power Five program.

After starting his college football career at Northeast Mississippi Community College, the 6-foot-4, 265-pounder made his way to Oxford to play for Ole Miss and take on some of the best offensive linemen in the country. And despite the leap in competition, he battled to become one of the most productive pass-rushers in the SEC and a potential top-100 selection in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Williams describes himself as a speed-to-power type of rusher. He thrives in situations that allow him to generate a burst of speed to bend around offensive linemen before using his strength to muscle his way to the quarterback. He knows what he brings to the table, and he is confident in his ability to make an immediate statement at the next level.

“I feel like I’m gonna win [Defensive] Rookie of the Year,” Williams said in an interview with PFF. “Second goal is to win a championship. Third, I want a [gold] jacket.”

The 2022 draft class is loaded with defensive talent, yet his tape and results at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine and Ole Miss pro day support his case for his first goal.

The 6-foot-4, 261-pound defensive end ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at the combine, the second-fastest time among edge rushers. His 40 time, 36-inch vertical, 123-inch broad jump and 6.93 three-cone all rank in the 75th percentile or better at the position, and they caught the attention of scouts across the league.

PFF's top edge defenders: numbers from NFL Combine and pro day

Sam Williams Aidan Hutchinson Travon Walker Kayvon Thibodeaux George Karlaftis
40-yard dash 4.46 4.74 4.51 4.58 4.71
10-yard split 1.60 1.62 1.62 1.59 1.65
Vertical 36” 36” 36” 38”
Broad jump 123” 117” 123” 119” 121”
Short Shuttle 4.33 4.15 4.32 4.34 4.36
3-cone 6.93 6.73 6.89 7.23

A lot of his motivation to be successful stems from his family, specifically his one-year-old son, Sam Jr. He says being a dad goes hand in hand with playing football, and he has his eyes set on being great — not just on the field but off it, too.

“If I attack greatness in everything I do, even on the football field, I want to do it as a dad, too,’ Williams said. “You can't say I'm great and just be great at one thing. You got to be great at everything. I want to be the best at everything I do, even including being a dad.

“I got a family now, and a man supposed to do everything he can to provide and make sure his family’s straight. Sometimes, you gotta man up and do what you gotta do, and that's what I've done. It changed my whole thought process and changed my whole mentality because I thought I knew everything. I just used that as motivation to make sure that they're provided for and they will never have to go through anything.”

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