CINCINNATI — Sitting at the podium in Paul Brown Stadium, Jonah Williams was speaking matter-of-factly, without sounding boastful or brash, about his goal as an offensive lineman.
“My goal is to make the person not want to keep lining up across from me. I want them to ask to switch to the other side or ask to get a sub in,” the Bengals’ first-round pick said at his introductory news conference Friday.
Hearing that, your first thought might be, “Uh-oh. That quote’s going up on the wall in the Steelers’ locker room and in every locker room of a Bengals’ opponent next season.”
But your second thought should be: “Good. That kind of bold thinking is just what the Bengals need.”
And Jonah Williams appears to have the skills, strength and mindset to back it up.
In college, the 6-4, 302-pound Alabama star dominated some of the best competition in the land, allowing just one sack in 850 snaps and none at all in his senior year.
Williams appears to be the football version of the Incredible Hulk – one part brainy technician, one part brawny mauler. He’s an offensive lineman who prides himself on the exactness of his technique and preparation but turns from a soft-spoken giant into a brute when he walks onto the field.
“I want to impose my will on my opponent and make people quit,” Williams said, citing his “physicality” as one of his strengths.
“I’m not a trash talker, not dirty or anything like that … I’m pretty calm, collected off the field, but there’s a switch I can turn on.”
Williams said most football people put him in “the technician, smart guy box” as a lineman, and it’s easy to understand why by the way he talks about his preparation.
Williams described a checklist he goes through before each play.
“I get in my stance, and I’m comfortable in my stance because I’ve run it through my head a thousand times,” he said. “I look at the defense. I look at the safeties. I look at what I need to look at. By the time the ball is snapped, I’ve diagnosed what I have to do. I know what my first step is going to be. I know where my hat is going to go. I know where my hands are going to go. And I have an idea of what the D-end or D-tackle — whoever I’m going against — is going to do.”
That’s when his physicality take over, and Dr. Bruce Banner turns into the Hulk.
“At that point, you just cut it loose,” Williams said. “The ball snaps, you come out, and you already know what you’re doing. You’ve practiced it to the point that it’s muscle memory.”
Williams said he never takes a play or a minute off – whether it’s on the field during a game or practice, in the weight room or in the film room.
“I try to approach everything the same way, whether it’s walk-throughs, lifting weights or watching film,” he said. “I always want to push that and make sure that when I step on the field, I know I’ve done everything in my ability to be as prepared as I can be. I think it’s just that professionalism and the type of competitiveness I bring.”
Here’s what Williams said about:
Making the jump from college football to the NFL: “I know the NFL is a whole different animal and I’m coming into it as humble as I can be. I’m not coming in thinking I already know it all and I’ve already learned it all. But I do feel like the program that (Alabama coach Nick Saban) ran definitely helped with mental toughness as far as being able to be coached hard and being able to face adversity.”
Getting drafted by the Bengals: “As soon as the Bengals were on the clock, I was hoping my phone was going to ring. As soon as it did and I saw the Cincinnati area code, I just started nudging everyone around me. I definitely knew that the Bengals were a possibility at 11, so I was preparing myself. As soon as it came around to that pick, it kind of hit me how good of a fit I feel that it is. I love the culture here. I love this organization. The new coaching staff is great. And I’m just proud to be a part of it.”
Getting to wear his college number 73, which he picked in honor of his idol, Browns great Joe Thomas: “I was pretty stoked about that, getting to keep that number. But it’s a Bengals jersey, and that’s what I’m most excited about.”