KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For many Chiefs fans, defensive lineman Nick Williams is one of those faceless names that pop up on the team’s roster from time-to-time without much fanfare heralding his arrival.
Often, those players are gone before the average fan knows they were even in the building.
But Williams is working hard to change that scenario at Arrowhead Stadium and in the last few weeks his playing time has increased and with it his production.
In 28 defensive snaps against Minnesota in Week 6, Williams had three tackles and was part of the Chiefs defensive effort that stymied Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.
With Dontari Poe trying to come back from a sprained ankle and Mike DeVito in the league’s concussion protocol, this Sunday will be another chance for the second-year player out of Samford University to make an impression.
Not only on the Chiefs coaches, but he wouldn’t mind if the guys on the other sideline happen to notice him as well.
Williams was a seventh-round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. A knee injury during a preseason practice sent him to the injured-reserve list for the ’13 season.
Last year, he did not make Pittsburgh’s 53-man roster, but was signed to the Steelers practice squad. Languishing there, he was given the chance to sign with the Chiefs when a roster spot opened in November due to safety Eric Berry’s illness.
“I got hurt my first year and I was working back towards getting ready last year on the practice squad,” Williams said. “I finally got healthy and that’s when the Chiefs called. They liked me ever since I came out of Samford so they were excited to get me in.”
When he was eligible for the NFL Draft two years ago, both the Steelers and Chiefs showed a lot of interest in him. Williams was a very raw prospect, who played just one year of football in high school where he was a talented basketball player. It wasn’t until his last two years at Samford that he saw significant playing time, starting all 22 games for the Bulldogs.
But he has qualities beyond college playing time, as he stands 6-4, weighs 310 pounds and was timed in the 40-yard dash at 4.84 seconds at the NFL Combine.
That type of size and speed, along with the explosion (33-inch vertical jump) and power (28 repetitions at 225 pounds on the bench press) Williams has displayed, he’s beginning to harness his physical potential and growing within Bob Sutton’s defensive structure.
“I think I’m playing good,” Williams said. “I’m still getting comfortable in this system; it’s different than what the Steelers run. I think I’m doing well.”
One of the differences between the Steelers and Chiefs defensive schemes is what the linemen are asked to do.
“In Pittsburgh they want you to keep the linemen off the linebackers and keep them off of Troy (Polamalu, safety now retired),” said Williams. “Here, they want you to come off the ball and penetrate.”
That Williams is getting his chance with the Chiefs and not the Steelers makes Sunday’s game at Arrowhead a big day for the Birmingham, Ala., native.
“I look forward to it but only because they have one of the top offenses in the league and it’s a big challenge for us,” Williams said. “If they have Ben Roethlisberger in the game, he can extend plays with his size. He’s in synch with his receivers and his offensive line. That’s why you can never give up on a play and think it’s over.
“If we are going to handle them we have to put pressure on Ben, or Landry Jones, whoever is playing quarterback. If it’s Ben, we have to get to him.”