As the Baltimore Ravens' third-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft, Missouri Southern defensive tackle Brandon Williams has an entirely new set of challenges ahead of him: He's got to adapt to an NFL system against pro-level talent after starring at a smaller school, but that's nothing compared to the task he undertook last summer -- Williams, the son of a single mother, carried and cleaned portable toilets to make extra money.
"Sometimes, you got a little poop on you," Williams told Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun during the Ravens' recent rookie minicamp. "Every time I was doing that, I said to myself, 'I gotta work harder, I'm not doing this the rest of my life.' It motivated me to get better."
Williams said that he pretended the outhouses were offensive linemen when he was lifting them into his truck.
"I acted like I was playing football. I just made it fun."
Williams' toughness, that ability to do a job others would not, is legitimate. His mom tried to hold the family together while working in factories and driving a bus, but it wasn't easy. For half of Williams' freshman year in high school, the family was homeless, keeping their belongings in their car.
"It was so tough, but my mom dealt with everything and she told me not to worry about it and just focus on school and sports," he recalled. "It grounded me, and I never forget where I came from. The long road is a great road to travel because it makes you appreciate everything you've got."
That focus was clear to Missouri Southern head coach Darryl Daye, who helped Williams become just the third player ever from a Division II school to be named a three-time All-American. And when Williams was invited to the Senior Bowl as a result, he clearly impressed against allegedly tougher competition. He then benched 225 pounds 38 times at the scouting combine, seeming to confirm Daye's assessment that Williams is "crap-house strong."
"No job is too small for him," Daye told Wilson. "He's what you want your son to be like: honest and true blue, a pleasure to coach. Brandon came up really rough, but he never let anything stand in his way. His mother is a very old-school, stern woman who raised him to be a Christian and to always have that humble mentality."
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Per the NFL's slotting system for draft picks, Williams will make about $515,000 this season as part of a four-year contract that would pay over $2.6 million if he's able to see all of it. The 6-foot-1, 335-pound lineman will start his NFL career as Haloti Ngata's backup, but could see time alongside the big fella in certain defensive packages.
Certainly, whatever challenges are ahead of him will look small compared to what he's been through.
"I worked a long time and I taught him to be a hard-working young man," Shelly Washington, the rookie's mother, told Wilson. "I've done every kind of job because it wasn't negotiable. It had to be done and I didn't complain. That's what we're all about."
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