Quinnen Williams: Declaring for NFL draft not an easy decision

Outland Trophy winner didn’t start thinking about early departure until after SEC Championship

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Even though he's been rated as a potential first-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft for months now, Quinnen Williams still called leaving the University of Alabama early a tough decision.

The redshirt sophomore defensive lineman spent most of the season getting used to being a starter. It wasn't until after the first month that he started to realize that he was having a big season, and didn't make a final decision until Nick Saban started stressing that there was a deadline involved.

"I talked to Coach Saban a lot," Williams said. "Coach Saban’s like the Godfather of early leaving, so I trust him and I trust what he told me, what he said. That made this decision easier for me."

Williams said that that he also talked to his family and there were a lot of phone calls with his coach, especially while attending the Outland Trophy banquet on Wednesday, when he was honored as the best interior lineman in college football.

After moving inside to nose guard at the start of the 2018 season he finished with 70 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks.

But just because he was a unanimous All-American doesn't mean that Williams is a shoe-in to be the first defensive lineman selected in the draft April 25-27.

It's an incredibly strong year for his position group:

“It’s cool," he said. "I see it every day. But I know I’ve got to work. I know there’s some great guys like Ed Oliver and Dexter Lawrence, Christian Wilkins, a lot of guys who are amazing, who I looked up. Just coming into this year, I looked up to Ed Oliver. Man, he’s an amazing football player. So, it’s a lot of guys who I’ve still got to work my butt off to compete against.

"I love a challenge, like just being my name put with those guys is amazing. Like I was at the Outland thing, and Ed Oliver won the Outland the year before and just to be in the same list with them, guys like Ndamukong Suh, Aaron Donald, Ed Oliver, it’s just amazing to me.”

Next up, Williams needs to select an agent and figure out when and where he's going to train for the draft. He's going to learn again on the Alabama coaches and staff to help with that but he gave a taste of what he'll be telling NFL teams on why they should select him:

“Just because I’m a hard worker on the field and off the field," he said. "Some people may see all the hard work I put in on the field, just see all the explosive plays I make, but off the field, I try to give back. I try to speak to other guys and just make an influence on other people’s life. I’m going to work my butt off on the field. On the field off is easy to me. Just getting bigger, stronger, faster. And my work ethic is out of the roof.

"Just being at Alabama helped me find my confidence in myself to be able to say that. Coach [Scott] Cochran is a tremendous help for me being able to say that, that I can outwork anybody. The things that we do here aren’t normal, out the roof on the way we condition, the way we workout, the way we carry ourself every day.”