Although the 2017 NFL Draft is Thursday, one of Texas’ most talented prospects is returning to the 40 Acres.
After finishing 2016 as a true sophomore, offensive tackle Connor Williams must wait one more year to attain draft eligibility. But Williams is already one of the most sought-after prospects of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Despite Texas ending on a three-game skid to limp to a 5–7 record last season, Williams launched a memorable 2016 campaign. The left tackle was one of three Longhorns to earn AP All-American second team honors at the conclusion of the season.
Williams blocked for one of the most prolific running backs in college football a year ago. His primary back, D’Onta Foreman, rushed for over 120 yards in each game during his 2016 run, en route to a 2,028-yard season — second in college football. Foreman has now submitted his name into the NFL Draft, a grandiose event that commences Thursday night and continues through Saturday. But Williams will stay in Austin, complemented with a new head coach and a new set of running backs.
Instead of Foreman, Williams lines up at left tackle to block for junior Chris Warren III and sophomore Kyle Porter, as well as incoming freshman Toneil Carter — who played with the first-team offense during the Orange-White Spring Game. But Williams claims his role will not alter with a new system of running backs.
“We just gotta make holes and block with complete faith that the guy behind us can take care of his job,” Williams said. “And if we make big enough holes, it doesn’t matter who’s running it.”
Playing for a young team under a new head coach in Tom Herman, Williams is emerging as not only a leader on the field, but a vocal leader as well. He began as a quiet member on the team but his leadership has augmented through his years at Texas.
“My goals coming in were getting better every day, finding something to work on every day and trying to perfect that,” Williams said. “As an o-lineman, (that means) coming together and trying to be a voice in the o-line and trying to get us together to be a family.”
Now, Williams’ fellow offensive linemen look up to him as a leader.
“It’s awesome having a guy like that in our room,” junior guard Jake McMillon said. “He’s talented, incredibly talented, and he pushes us every day with everything he brings to the table. Lately, he’s stepping in and taking more of a vocal role. He’s working really hard as well and leading by example as well.”
Williams will lead the Longhorns’ offensive line for at least one more season, developing his skills in the process. Although he may be pro-ready now, he earns one more opportunity to enshrine himself into Longhorn greatness before hearing his name called at the NFL Draft in the near future.