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Bengals Welcome Football Junkie

Jonah Williams: loves the game.
Jonah Williams: loves the game.

Butch Jones, the former University of Cincinnati and Tennessee head coach who spent last year on Nick Saban's staff at Alabama, sums up new Bengals offensive lineman Jonah Williams pretty simply.

"He loves football," said Jones. "He is a football junkie."

Williams says he caught the football bug at an early age.

"I started playing in second or third grade and I fell in love with it," he said. "I played every sport and threw the shotput and disc in high school and was big into that, but what was different in football was being on a team. It's different than throwing the shot and disc by yourself. But it's also that physical, nasty mentality (in football). You can only throw a shotput so angrily."

By the time Williams was in seventh grade, he was waking up at 5 a.m. in order to walk 15 minutes to his middle school where a coach would open the weight room for him.

"I'm just competitive – I want to be better than everyone else, you know?" said Williams. "I felt like, 'Hey, I'm not doing anything until school starts at 8:00, so I might as well be doing something to get better.'

"I liked the idea of getting up to my alarm before anyone else was up and putting on my headphones and putting on a hoodie and walking over to the school. My sister was driving to school at that point and she's three years older than me. She would keep a duffel bag with my school uniform in her trunk."

And when the school's weight room wasn't available, Williams took matters into his own hands.

"I ended up building a weight room in my basement because the weight room wasn't always open in the summer and Christmas break and stuff like that," he said. "It was a weight room of two-by-fours and metal poles and craigslist weights and stuff like that.

"I had signs hanging up in that weight room that I built – I forget that exact numbers – with the percentage of high school players that get full scholarships to go to college. And then the percentage of those college players that get drafted into the NFL and play for however many years. It's just such a small percentage."

Williams beat the odds to become a three-year starter and first team All-American at Alabama before being selected 11th overall in this year's draft – the first of six offensive lineman picked in the first round.

"As a competitor you want to be the first," he said. "I think the other offensive tackles and lineman in this class are great and are going to do great things, but as a competitor you want to be the first one taken. But at this point, none of that matters. I'm a Cincinnati Bengal and I'm ready to get to work."

Butch Jones says that Williams will have the opportunity to contribute right away.

"He's very versatile," said Jones. "He can bring so much value to an organization because he can play tackle, he can play guard, he can play center – he can play anywhere on the offensive line and he's very cerebral.

"He's a student of the game and he wants to be the best at what he does through extra preparation. He'll be a great benefit to the organization."

Williams had a prior tie to the Bengals since he worked out before the draft with Cincinnati's former offensive line coach Paul Alexander.

"It's kind of a small world," said Williams, "but he's really knowledgeable and gave me a lot of good advice and help as far as how to approach the NFL.

"I've never been to Cincinnati but my impression of it is that it's going to be a perfect fit. It's just that hard-working tough guy mentality. I love that and feel like that suits me."

I'd love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@Bengals.nfl.net

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