Williams rewarded with first start

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Eric Berry was fast-tracked into Tennessee's starting lineup. His itinerary: Show up on campus; start.

The Vols' other new defensive starter Saturday night against Southern Miss took a more circuitous route.

Dan Williams' journey from star at East High School in Memphis to UT starting defensive tackle has taken him, among other places, through the drive-through window at Krystal.

There were frequent late-night visits to McDonald's. The neon glow of the golden arches was an irresistible siren's call.

Next came countless laps around UT's indoor practice facility. And jogs up the practice-tower steps lugging an 80-pound sandbag.

There was almost a dreaded detour to the offensive line.

At last, a turn for the better. The produce department at Kroger's.

And, of course, regular trips to the scales. The pounds went on, then they came off.

Finally, an evening at Cal Memorial Stadium, where the sophomore was one of the few encouraging notes on UT's defense in a 45-31 season-opening loss.

"Dan played better than the guy in front of him (J.T. Mapu),'' said defensive coordinator John Chavis.

So Williams will play first Saturday night against Southern Miss in the Vols' home opener (TV: pay-per-view, 7 p.m.).

It's a reward not only for playing well at California but for persevering through a body-reshaping ordeal. Virtually every freshman endures that process but Williams' was on a grander scale than most because he arrived on campus on a grander scale than most.

He played his senior year - 2004 - at East at about 325 pounds. By the time he got to UT in the summer of 2005 he was up to about 360.

He admits he got lazy after signing day. His training regimen including extended stays on the couch eating pizza and playing PlayStation with good friend and fellow UT signee Malcolm Rawls.

When he got to Knoxville, the dollar menu at McDonald's was the easy way to go for a hungry football player on a thin college budget.

Somewhere along the way, the message sank in.

"The coach told me, 'If you don't lose weight, you're not going to play,' '' Williams said.

So over time, he lost 55 to 60 pounds. Lost it. Regained some of it. Lost it again.

Chavis and position coach Dan Brooks stayed on him. Nobody stayed on him like Johnny Long, UT's Energizer bunny of a strength-and-conditioning coach.

Turkey sandwiches replaced cheeseburgers. Apple slices replaced french fries.

"One thing I've found out,'' Williams said, "eating healthy costs more.

"But it helps me out. I feel better and I run a lot better.''

Williams redshirted in 2005 and played sparingly in 2006. It wasn't just his weight that held him back.

"I've been on his rear in a big-time way,'' said UT coach Phillip Fulmer, "along with Coach Brooks and Coach Chavis, to step up his play in ballgames.

"There was a point early, even at the beginning of spring last year, you didn't know if he was going to be able to play the position or move to offense.

"I actually had that conversation with him. I was going to move him but the needs of team dictated he stay over there.''

Good thing he did, judging from the Cal game. Williams is committed to keeping his weight at 300 pounds.

He credits Long with giving him the body and Brooks with giving him the know-how to succeed.

"In high school at defensive tackle, you'd just throw the little guys out in front of you,'' Williams said. "In college you have to be more technique wise.

"When Coach Brooks tells you to use your hands, you listen to what he's saying or you get in a scrimmage one day and don't use it and you just get run over.''

Williams wants to make a point of not getting run over Saturday night. The journey continues.

Mike Strange may be reached at 865-342-6276 or strange2@knews.com.

© 2007 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 23

threesdown#452226 writes:

Can I suggest removal of Saban from this website??
Cause that would be GLORIOUS

Feared_Mustang_Package writes:

If they ban him he'll just come back with a different name. Just pay no attention if you don't like him.

FLVol writes:

Come on Saban....you could do the same summary on just about any article you read. It's nice to know the background sometimes on these players and what they had to do to get them to this point in their careers. Why don't you go back to coaching your maroon washing detergent and sit and wait for the Vols to come calling in October. I personally can't wait for that butt kicking your team will get!

Dirtdobber writes:

Nickosama bin Saben!

mloaks#222092 writes:

Seconded re Saban. No wonder other have little respect for TN football, and their fans...
JT lost a step; youth is indeed fleeting, but faith does come first. I am proud to be an Alum!

mloaks#222092 writes:

Forgot to add that insulting Saban doesnt raise our discussion. He has an opinion, and the Sentinal isnt the WaPost. I still miss The Journal...

TNvolunteer writes:

Good to a see Dan Williams get to start Saturday..Looks like the guy has worked very hard and has earned it...But when are we gonna see some other young guys get there chance? Like Andre Mathis, Chris Donald, Chris Walker, Dennis Rogan, Donald Langly, and more...Noo one can tell me these guys arent as good as the ones in front of them?

If look at the recruiting class of 2005, that class was loaded with talented kids, just like this past one. Why didn't any of those kids get chances to play late into the year....Is Fulmer gonna wait until November to see what these freshman can do..If one or more of these freshman standout, then people are gonna fuss about why wasnt these kids playing in early september, including me. If anyone of these top recruits we have this year would have went to say Florida or Georgia..they would be starting or at the very least 2nd teamers.

spikevol writes:

he's just mad cause his wife can't lose 60 pounds

orangeblood writes:

hahaha, i love the ut-bama hate-hate relationship

TNvolunteer writes:

It's not that our defense is bad..it has ALOT to do with people playing out of position...example Mayo is and OLB not a MLB...Mapu at 275lbs is DE by trade...not a DT...Why do we have kids who have made a name for themselves playing their naturally position, get moved and it hurts us? Why oh bright and highly paid coaches? I think Mapu is a good player but..how can you play DT at 6'3, 275 lbs? Its not his fault, it's the coaches...Mapu may have made a great DE...After all he was a 5 star recruit coming out of high school at DE...Put him back at DE and lets see what he can do.

TNvolunteer writes:

Mapu is a great athlete but he would better help the team at DE...Bigger guys are over-powering him...Put him at DE and let him use his speed and strength to put pressure on QB's....Mapu is probably the quickest D-Lineman on the team..besides Ben Martin.

Hunter writes:

Eric, what speed? Mapu made a choice between football and religion - which I REALLY respect - but the truth is that he lost several steps when he did and has yet to get them back. I can't fault him at all for his decision, though. The guy has his priorities straight.

TNvolunteer writes:

Mapu was never given the chance to play DE in college...as soon as he came on campus he was to DT...At 275lbs, you cant play DT in the SEC...Too many bigger O-Linemen....Just give the kid a chance at DE...He cant do any worse than Reynolds.

TNvolunteer writes:

You are probably right...but we know Brown and Ayers will have to wait until next year or an injury occurs before they get their chance....Ayers will only have one year and Brown two...Fulmer and Comp. need to get some of these young guys some game reps so that they have some exp. heading into next year..

That has been a prob. here for some time....When a kid grads. we replace him with kids who almost have no exp. what so ever...Just like our D-Line this year..How many of those guys have played meaningful minutes besides X. Mitchell?

GreerVol22 writes:

Like a broken record, it won't make any diff who's on D if we can't cover the darn kick....that being said, slow clap for you Mr. Williams. Congrats on beating out a once promising lineman that spent more time on his knees that past few years than he did staying in shape....not that there is anything wrong with that.

ps if you re-read this post and pretend your Eeyore the donkey, you get the sense of excitement for this weekends game.

utnutt writes:

Fact is none of these guys yall are talking about has the talent that we have had in the past. To remind everyone i have a short list. Do any of these guys now have this kind of talent. please fill free toad other names. DARWIN WALKER,JOHN HENDERSON, LENOARD LITTLE. JUSTIN HARREL, JESSE MALHONA,AND YES I KNOW LITTLE WAS A END AND ALSO A LINEBACKER BUT PROBABLE THE MOST ATHLETIC LINEMAN WE HAVE EVER HAD. WHERE IS THIS KIND OF ABILITY ON OUR TEAM.

Southland writes:

Saban, keep posting things. It just reminds us how stupid Bama fans can be. War Eagle!! Saban Has the real Saban learned to tell the truth yet??

volfan39#234125 writes:

On a different but similar subject: TACKLING OPPOSING PLAYERS!! Coach Chavis, if you want to solve the mystery of 22 missed tackles I heartily recommend you review the clinic in the art of tackling put on by---MIDDLE TENN. STATE-- YES, THAT LITTLE SUN BELT TEAM. I still can't believe, the starters on the UNIV. OF TENN. after 3-4 yrs in high school& endless practices at UT, can in your eyes, earn a postion on "D" as long revered as it "was" I'm saying that after all the time invested in these reaching and grabbing "artists" that they can learn a little basic football from a determined and focused team such as MTSU. !!TIME TO COACH UP CHAVIS!!
Would that we could look half as good Sat. in our execution. LETS PUT SOME EFFORT INTO IT VOLS!! Smack 'em Sat. Show your fans some Doug Atkins --Ralph Kiner style of bust mouth football!! YOU GOTTA WANT IT!!

bigbluevol writes:

As far as tackling goes, the only thing I want to see is more guys going in with their heads up and arms open. Too often and for too long, we have had guys just lower their shoulders and try to go for the kill shot. When the ball carrier doesn't just fall over, our guys looked shocked. It's happening with teams everywhere, but it seems to be affecting our guys particularly badly. Just fundamentally wrap someone up, please. When you don't, they bounce off and keep running.

volfan39#234125 writes:

sjt -- Louisville not in Cal's class offensivly? Hows over 700 yds and as you said 58pts and ranked #8 prior to game time . I dont think their ranking was based on thier defense guess that must be the O that earned it . Tenn. D would make any offense look good. MOdel it after whoever you choose . Its not what Ive seen at U.T. And remember Mtsu is not top grade competition but worked the Cardinals to the limit. If not for a few plays Blue Raiders win-- Heck that sounds like Fulmer's excuse. Just how do you rate the Vols "d" ? I give it a "d" as in grade.

Dirtdobber writes:

Hey saban- why dont you and Lance Bass polish that rocket at the Elkton, Alabama exit on 65!

Dirtdobber writes:

Saban- good job beating up on western northern Carolina- good start- what will you do when Vandy shows you who your daddy is!

Why dont you take your tide box and toliet paper and plunger and head south, toward your shoe laces...u might want to get comfortable with that position this season!

tom_mills#222231 writes:

Please KNS you have my Amex # on file - just make this a pay site again and bring back busybody. This is just painful.

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