Considering Brandon Williams stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 335 pounds, it seems odd to question whether he can play with the big boys.
But that's the question Williams knows he faces as he makes the jump from Division II ball at Missouri Southern State to the NFL.
"I’m ready for the challenge," Williams said after his first pro workout at the Ravens rookie minicamp. "I’m up for the challenge, and just to get out here and show everybody that, ‘Hey, I’m D-II, but I can still play. I’m here. I’m in a Baltimore jersey right now playing with all you guys – D-I’s, wherever you’re from – and I’m going to play as hard as you, play better than you, and I’m here to stay.’"
Williams, a native of Fenton, Missouri, explained that he was a partial qualifier coming out of high school, so his choices were to go to junior college or the Division II route. He decided to stay close to home and attend Missouri Southern State, where he evolved into a three-time Division II All-American and set a school record with 27 sacks. He also showed a unique brand of athleticism.
"He dominated the small school level, there’s no doubt about that," assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said after the Ravens drafted Williams in the third round. "When you’re looking at a small school prospect, that’s one thing that you want to see, is a guy that dominates in the game. And he did that."
Williams then showed he could hold his own against more blueblood-pedigree collegiate players at the Senior Bowl.
"He went to the Senior Bowl and he really played well," DeCosta said. "He had a really strong week of practice against Division I players, more experienced guys, and he looked like a legitimate 3-4 nose tackle."
The Ravens don't shy away from small-school players. Joe Flacco hails from Delaware, and Lardarius Webb from Nicholls State. Ramon Harewood played at Morehouse, and Cary Williams, a starting cornerback last season, played at Washburn. There are others as well, and although the Ravens didn't draft Cary Williams, their scouts are constantly searching for talent at every level of football. Williams is just the latest find, and although he said he has a "huge chip on my shoulder coming from D-II," he's eager to show he belongs.
"I’m driven and I’m motivated to give 100 percent every day," Williams said, "and work harder than the next person and the person in front of me."