When NFL scouts go to Chapel Hill on Tuesday for UNC’s pro day, they’ll see a different Marquise Williams than what last year’s film shows.
Williams finished last season at 228 pounds, and he says he’s down to 215. And they’ll see a quarterback who isn’t too keen on taking off and running at the next level like he did for the Tar Heels.
“I’m not too big on that anymore,” Williams said in a phone interview. “That’s something that helps at the college football level. But I’m not into that anymore. I’m more into what’s next – throwing the ball, getting the ball out of your hands and following your checkdown progressions.”
That’s a stark contrast to what helped make Williams, a Mallard Creek product, a second-team All-ACC quarterback. The Tar Heels were 11-3 in 2015, and in nine out of UNC’s 14 games, Williams rushed at least 10 times.
This week he wants to show scouts that he can make any throw from the pocket, and he has worked on his short and intermediate passes.
“There are going to be times where I have to use my feet, but I’m going to throw the ball more than I’m going to run the ball,” Williams said. “I look at Cam (Newton) and these guys have done it. The way he did it, I feel like I can do it. He stuck to who he was. That’s how I am. I’m going to stick to who I am and I’m going to make it happen.”
Wintering in Orlando
Shortly after UNC’s Russell Athletic Bowl loss to Baylor, Williams began training at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando with respected quarterbacks coach Tom Shaw.
There, Williams did quarterback-specific conditioning like dropbacks and rollouts in sandpits alongside former Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott. The goal was to increase his strength after a long season and get him leaner for his pro day.
Williams also worked against NFL players who were there training. Bert Whigham, who coaches alongside Shaw, saw Williams impress defenders at the next level.
“People want all quarterbacks to run now, and the pocket passer seems like it’s a dying art,” Whigham said. “He was able to read the defense and make the throws. It’s almost refreshing to see because it’s like the game wants to be changed and he can just sit back there and throw it.”
Whigham repeated how impressed he was with Williams’ leadership skills in seven-on-seven and skeleton drills.
“He’s a guy that works hard and is humble, which can be surprising because of his success,” Whigham said. “Sometimes guys, it gets in their head. But he was a hard worker and humble kid, and he got better every day.”
That humility seemed to spread in the group Williams trained with. Along with Prescott, Williams worked Heisman-winning running back Derrick Henry and Tennessee wide receiver Marquez North, a fellow Mallard Creek alumnus.
Williams said he was surprised by how down-to-earth the Heisman winner was. The quartet would regularly compete against each other in drills. He and Prescott tried to get faster 10-yard splits. Henry would (obviously) win the 40-yard dash and North would take the L-cone drills.
All those players performed well at the combine, except for Williams. He was not selected as one of the 18 signal-callers to go to Indianapolis.
That didn’t deter him from going there and meeting teams, however. Williams, who’s expected to be a late-round pick or a priority free agent, said he met with 12 teams there, and Minnesota and Oakland showed the most interest.
He said he didn’t get any weird questions at the combine like some players, but a few teams were interested in his passion for country music.
One team even questioned how much he likes Eric Church. When asked to name a few songs, Williams rattled off “Talladega,” “Springsteen,” “Drink In My Hand” and “Like a Wrecking Ball.”
Williams has workouts or visits with Minnesota, Oakland, Green Bay, San Diego, Kansas City and Carolina, which will work him out April 9.
There will be a lot riding on Tuesday’s pro day, though. It will be Williams’ first chance to impress scouts with his leaner body.
He doesn’t want to be known as the runner he was in college, and he wants to make every throw. But on top of all that, he wants to have fun.
“I’m going to go out and put on a show. I’m going to have fun,” Williams said. “Let everybody know that this guy has a lot of talent. And I’ve always been overlooked and that was OK with me.
“I’m going to have a lot of fun. That’s my goal. I’m not competing against anyone but myself because I’m letting people know I can do this stuff.”