Senior Bowl: Williams' dream within reach

North Carolina defensive tackle Sylvester Williams is in Mobile, Ala. this week to play in the Senior Bowl. Williams is currently projected as a second to third round draft pick... not bad for a young man who once found himself daydreaming about football while building truck radiators in a factory.

MOBILE, Ala. — Four years ago Sylvester Williams couldn't have been further from the NFL draft. In fact, he couldn't have been further from a football field.

The North Carolina defensive tackle went from playing one season of high school football to working in a factory in Coffeyville, Kan. manufacturing radiator parts for trucks.

It was during those long hours for six months he decided he wanted to return to the field. "I wasn't very successful when I took my cleats off for the last time," Williams explained Monday from the Senior Bowl. "I left something on the field and I knew that deep down inside I wanted to play again."

Calling it one of the best decisions he's ever made, Williams enrolled at Coffeyville Community College as a self-described 360-pound out of shape defensive lineman.

"I worked my butt off every day," he explained.

It wasn't long before his dedication began paying off.

The defensive tackle started his first of what would be two seasons at Coffeyville. Heads began to turn and scholarship offers rolled in. Williams eventually became a Scout.com four-star prospect and chose to accept an offer to play at North Carolina. "It was a blessing," he said.

Fast-forward through his two years as a Tar Heel and even Williams talks as though he has surprised himself with where he is at. "I never pictured myself in this position," he said, "but one thing I always knew was that I wanted to be successful doing something."

He's certainly found a way.

Williams official Senior Bowl weigh in was 6-foot-2.5 313-pounds. He's drawing attention as a standout prospect among the other top seniors in the country. His North squad coaches of the Oakland Raiders are taking notice. "A lot of the coaches they were impressed," he said. "They want to see me come back [each day] and be even better."

Williams says he pays no attention to the buzz about where he might be selected in April's draft, but instead chooses to focus his attention on continued improvement. "The thing that just got me here the most is just hard work," he said. "I watch football, I watch film, I read articles, all type of stuff to just better myself at the game of football."

Reflecting on his path from working in a factory just a few years ago to now being an NFL prospect, Williams admits it's been an emotional journey that sometimes even brings him to tears. "At the point I was at in my life, I had nothing to look forward to," he said. "I was at the bottom and I never wanted to be there again."

Becaue of his hard work he's no longer anywhere near the bottom. Now instead of looking back with tears of pain, Williams is looking ahead toward expectant tears of joy when gets the call in April. "I'm going to be so emotional because it's another big step that I will have taken in my life," Williams said about the draft. "I'm ready to take that next step," he said. "I've been blessed."

Blesssed, certainly. Driven to succeed, most definitely.

Follow Lindsey Thiry on Twitter

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