There is only a 3% chance that a college football player will make it to the NFL.  In the 2009 NFL Draft, 39 cornerbacks were drafted, with nearly 100 players in that position entering their names in the draft.  High-caliber cornerbacks like Vonte Davis and Malcom Jenkins from BCS-conference schools, who were selected in the first round, tend to dominate the media headlines each year.  However, this year there were several lesser-known cornerbacks from small schools who made a splash in the 3rd and 4th rounds.  Even though the odds are clearly stacked against players from small schools making it to the NFL, this year’s draft proves that it is not impossible.

Alcorn State University standout cornerback, Roderick Williams, looks to be the next small-school player in line to play in the NFL. The 5-foot-10, 178 lb. cornerback from Monroe, Louisiana is already fast at work putting himself in excellent position for the 2010 NFL Draft.  Williams, who was 2nd Team All-Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) as a sophomore for Alcorn, will be the Braves’ defensive leader this season.  Last season, he recorded 66 tackles, 12 pass breakups, and 1 interception for his team, and is poised to have a breakout season this year.  

Williams possesses blinding speed with an unofficial 4.36 40-yard dash in his arsenal, as well as the requisite skills to make it to the next level.  Beside his talent, he stands out in a crowd with his positive attitude, humility, and sheer determination.  As a self-proclaimed “people person,” Williams is down-to-earth and exceptionally polite, often uttering “sir” in his Louisianan accent.  

One of Williams’ strongest assets is his ability to form relationships with individuals who will guide and assist him in achieving his NFL dream.  Former Washington Redskins superstar, Darrell Green, serves Williams' mentor, and has been an instrumental part of his pursuit to one day secure a spot on an NFL roster.  

Darrell Green is truly in a class of his own.  Green is a class of 2008 Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinee, a former seven-time All-Pro defensive back and two-time Super Bowl champion for the Redskins where he played for 20 years, and one of the fastest players ever to play professional sports (he once unofficially recorded a blazing 4.09).  While his list of sports accolades is never-ending, what stands out even more is Green’s passionate commitment to the community and strong success in the business arena.  Green founded The Darrell Green Youth Life Foundation (DGYLF), which supports and advocates for America’s children.  On top of all this, Green is a prominent entrepreneur with an extensive portfolio of businesses under the conglomerate Darrell Green Holdings.

Williams reached out to Green one day, hoping to glean valuable career advice and tips from the legend.  “I made the phone call, we just happen to click, and we’ve been on the same page ever since,” said Williams.  Williams couldn’t have picked a better mentor, as Green is one of the most decorated defensive players ever to play in the NFL and is a widely respected community ambassador and businessman.

In late March, Williams attended a 5-day football camp run by Green in Orlando.  At the camp, he worked out with several other college players preparing for the 2009 NLF Draft, as well as some current NFL players.  The camp offered attendees like Williams a chance to perform football drills, watch film, and participate in workouts, as well as receive tutelage from Green on how to handle the mental stresses of being a professional athlete and a team leader.  "I’m just trying to take tips from him and just trying to get my footwork down, get my speed, and get everything accurate," said Williams.

The special bond that Williams and Green have forged and cultivated illustrates the value that can be realized when a former professional athlete becomes a trusted advisor and mentor to a younger player and assists with his career and personal development.

Whether Williams ends up being drafted in the 2009 NLF Draft or he has to work his way up as an undrafted free agent like former Prairie View (SWAC) player Jermaine McGhee, Williams will find a way to get it done, and when he does, you can bet that Green played a big part in his success.  

Most recently, we caught up with Williams for an interview when he was in the Washington DC area training with Darrell Green.

AA: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us.  What have you been up to lately?  

Williams: I’m up here playing with Mr. Darrell Green, trying to get better, and getting ready for my senior year and the draft.

AA: I was looking at your Access Athletes profile and you say you’re a leader on and off the field.  Tell me about that?  What makes you a leader?

Williams: Leaders lead by example.  I feel like on the field, I produce.  I produce for my team and make big plays when we really need it.  Players actually look up to that and they look forward to me making things happen for the team.  Off the field, I just lead by example.  I make sure my teammates are doing everything right, make sure they are going to workouts, make sure they are going to class, and make sure they have no bad rep on them.  [I make sure they] just do everything right on and off the field.

AA: You said you want to make a difference on some NFL team.  How do you plan on doing that?

Williams: Any team that picks me, it will be a blessing [for them], and it will be a good decision because I’m going to work hard.  I’m going to work my butt off every single day.  It’s a job for me if I get a chance to play at that level.  I’m going to come to work and be prepared to work.  I’m going to put myself in a position to make things happen for my team.

AA: What do you need to improve on for next season to take your game to the next level so that you are on people’s radar for the 2010 NFL draft?  

Williams: The biggest thing is being consistent in everything that I do, week in and week out.  This year, I know a lot of teams are going to go away from me, but still while they are going away from me, I have to make things happen, make plays, and just produce for my team.  I have to continue to do the things I’ve been doing, continue to work hard, and don’t ever get complacent with what I’m doing and where I’m at.  I just have to keep going toward the moon.

AA: What drives you and motivates you to have that hunger?  

Williams: First of all, I love the game of football and I feel like I was blessed to be in my position right now and able to do the things I’m able to do.  On the field, I’m able to make stuff happen when it’s needed.  Football is just for me I think.  My love of the game drives me and other things that I went through when I was younger drive me.  I want to see better things for my mom.  I just want to be a successful person, so I can help other people and give back to my community.

AA: With all the competition to play in the NFL, how do you plan on making a name for yourself coming from a small school like Alcorn State University?  

Williams: Well, I plan on making a name for myself in my workouts.  In the games, when we play against big schools, I feel like I have to stand out.  I feel like I have to be like a sore thumb and just stand out and make things happen at all times.  I have to do better than they do before they can even compare a small school.  When I get a chance to do that on my stage, I will just have to show them and stand out.  Fast 40 times, making big plays, and just being consistent with everything I do and having no flaws.  

AA: Does Steve McNair inspire you since he is as an alum of Alcorn State who made a name for himself in the NFL?  

Williams: Well certainly now.  He came to a couple of our games.  Of course, he is a guy that I look up to.  He went there and he’s an alumn.  Who better than to look up to than Steve McNair?  He came from the same situation I’m in and he made the best of it.  I look up to him because I feel like he did big things and I’m just trying to follow in his footsteps.

AA: You also return punts and kick returns, with solid career averages of 8.8 and 15.5 respectively.  What position do you see yourself playing in the NFL?  Do you see yourself more as a defensive player or as a special-teamer?  

Williams: I feel like if I’m going into the NFL, I’m going to play whatever position they need me at first of all.  But I’m going to compete for a job at the cornerback position because that’s my main position.  I also want to be a specialist and return punts and kickoffs.  Whatever I can do to help the team… I want to be as valuable as I can.

AA: What are some of the biggest pointers that Darrell Green has given you, both on and off the field?  

Williams: The biggest thing he tells me about my personality on and off the field is staying humble.  You have to stay humble no matter what stage you are on and no matter who you’re around.  You have to stay humble and be the same person.  You have to be a good person, so good things can happen to you.  That’s the biggest thing he stresses all the time—just staying humble and working hard.  If you work hard, things will pay off.

AA: When he discusses what it’s like to become a pro, what does he tell you about selecting an agent?

Williams: Right now, we don’t talk about agents.  When agents try to contact me, I can’t take their contact because I’m strictly business.  I have a whole vision in place and don’t want them to be a distraction.  I have people calling me and I never accept calls.  I change my number every now and then so I don’t even have to worried about that.  I’ll worry about that after the last game and then we’ll get into that in more detail.

AA: Given the recent Sports Illustrated article about pro athletes going broke, what does Darrell Green tell you about assembling a team to manage your finances when you get to the pros?  

Williams: He tells me that that is a big decision too.  I have to watch whom I let in my inner-circle.  I have an inner circle and I have an outer circle.  If you are in the inner circle, then you are around me more often and you will be around that.  But as far as finances and stuff, I’ll just worry about that when I get there, because I feel like when I get there, I’ll have the right management to guide me in the right direction.  

AA: What does Darrell Green tell you about what it is like to make it as an underdog or as the “itty-bitty guy” as he refers to himself?  

Williams: One thing he told me is that they rate you as an underdog, but once you get to that stage, there is no underdog.  Everybody is there.  And when you are there, you get the opportunity to showcase what you can do.  I feel like I’m already on the radar, so the only thing I gotta do now is continue to get better.  Continue to get better to show them that I’m able to compete with the guys from the big schools like Ohio State.  I need to compete and stand out.  I can’t just be another guy.

AA: Earlier in the interview you mentioned that you want to get to the point where you can give back to the community.  Have you thought about how you would give back to the community? If you could develop your own charity called The Roderick Williams Foundation, what would be the cause? 

Williams: Darrell talks to me about all that type of stuff too, and when I do get to the next level, how I can manage this and how I can manage that and help the community.  Yeah…I thought about it…I can give back to different groups and just give to the community to show that I’m supporting them and trying to help them move forward with things.  It would have to be cancer because my god-mom suffered with breast cancer a couple of years back and she is still suffering with it now.  And I have to watch her suffer with it.  I feel like the first thing I want to give back to her is to give back to all the people with cancer in my community and all across the nation.  That’s like a main priority in my family and she’s real close to me.  I’m close to her and kind of sensitive with that situation.

AA: This is your last season and the end of your career as a college football player.  Do you have any fears about that?  

Williams: Oh I have no fears.  I’m just living life and just playing.  I have no fears about anything.  I’m just going to go out and play hard every game for my teammates and coaches.  It’s going to play out how it’s going to play out.

AA: What do you want to do after you are finished playing football?  Have you thought about that yet?

Williams: Well, I thought about a couple things.  I might look into coaching and I might look at just being a dad.  I’m majoring in recreation and I will get my degree in December after my last game.  So, I’ll be able to fall back on that and coaching or whatever field I want to go into.

AA: What tips would you give to an aspiring D-I player trying to follow in your footsteps?  

Williams: I would just say be a good person and stay humble.  Don’t ever feel like you’re bigger than the next person. 


On behalf of Access Athletes, we would like to thank Roderick Williams for taking time out of his busy schedule to do an interview with The Real Athlete Blog. Matthew Allinson can be reached at