NASHVILLE, Tenn. — No one can accuse Jonah Williams of being a sore loser. Frankly, it’s impossible to know for sure because he’s had precious few opportunities to taste defeat.
Over his past six football seasons, Williams’ teams have posted a gaudy 86-5 record. His Folsom (California) High School squad went 45-2 over three years with a state championship and two losses in the state semifinals.
Alabama posted a 41-3 mark with a national championship in 2017 bookended by a pair of losses to Clemson in the title game during his three seasons with the Crimson Tide.
No matter the competition, Williams simply refuses to lose.
So when he was surprisingly challenged to a staring contest by one of the team representatives during the dog-and-pony interview segment at the NFL combine last month, Williams, shall we say, didn’t bat an eye.
“That was pretty interesting,” Williams said in a USA Today interview. “I wasn’t expecting that. I didn’t have my eye drops prepared for that. They called it a tie, actually, so I didn’t lose. Neither of us were blinking.”
Despite his ocular mastery, all eyes will were squarely on Williams Thursday night during the opening round of the NFL draft proceedings.
Considered as one of the top three offensive linemen available along with Washington State’s Andre Dillard and Florida’s Jawaan Taylor, Williams’ competitive nature prompted him to desire top billing among his peers at his position.
Williams was selected 11th overall by the Cincinnati Bengals — the second Alabama player to be picked after Quinnen Williams was taken No. 3 by the New York Jets.
“It’s exciting to finally know where I’m going and I couldn’t be more happy,” Williams said. “I’m ready to take this next step. They’re getting a guy who is competitive and will always prepare. That’s something that I learned while at Alabama.”
The journey from California to Tuscaloosa and now to Cincinnati is the culmination of a dream for Williams.
“This is something I’ve dreamed about since I was young, imagining how this moment might feel,” Williams said. “Honestly, it’s as much relief as it is joy. I miss the structure of being a part of a team, and I’ve sort of been a mercenary since preparing for the draft. I’m looking forward to getting back at it with my new teammates.”
“If I don’t end up being first, I’m going to be ticked to myself,” Williams said before the draft. “Whichever team picks me is giving me an opportunity to prove whoever wrong and come win games with their organization.
“I’m excited just to go do that. I’m not going to whine and complain about things I can’t control. I’m just going to get to work and play the sport I’m drafted to play. That is what it’s all about at the end of the day. All this other stuff is hoopla.”
The Bengals can rest assured they are getting a master at his craft. A voracious student of film study, the 6-foot-4, 303-pound lineman has a reputation for his preparation as well as his technical skills.
Freshmen aren’t typically given starting assignments at Alabama, but Williams enrolled early and got the first-team nod at right tackle for every game of the 2016 season.
He moved to left tackle his sophomore year after Cam Robinson graduated, and Williams finished his Crimson Tide career starting all of his 44 games.