Thursday, May 08, 2014

Combine lifted Williamson’s draft stock, with UK assist

By Kyle Tucker

May 7, 2014

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Most of his life, Henry Williamson has been called by his name. These days, with a son expected to be selected in this week’s NFL Draft, he answers to something else around town in Milan, Tenn.

“I went to the eye doctor the other day and the lady asked me, ‘You Avery Williamson’s father?’ I said, ‘Yes, I sure I am.’ It’s been exciting,” Henry said. “People are always asking about him, talking about him. Some of them don’t even know me. But they know him.”

Williamson, an All-SEC linebacker last season at the University of Kentucky, will be back home in Tennessee the next three days to watch the draft and wait for his life to change. He won’t go in tonight’s first round and it would be a surprise if he’s taken in the second or third rounds Friday, but after a dazzling performance at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, his stock has significantly improved.

Once a fringe prospect, he’s now almost certain to be selected.

“It’s just so crazy. I’ve watched the draft since I was little — watched guys get their names called — and I’m going to be a part of that now. It’s mind-blowing. I still can’t believe it,” Williamson said. “We’re going to cook out and watch the TV — and keep my phone charged.”

He’ll gather with family and friends at home Saturday, the day he’s widely projected to be picked somewhere between the fourth and sixth rounds. Before the combine, where he measured 6-foot-1, 246 pounds with an impressive 7 percent body fat and ranked top 10 among all linebackers in five major physical tests, Williamson was a projected seventh-rounder or undrafted free agent.

“It was the world’s difference,” he said of his combine performance. “I was really under the radar, and putting up good times and numbers, that really showed that I’m one of the top guys in the linebacker class this year. That makes me look a lot better and gives them more reason to put me higher on their draft board.

“I can’t really say (who), but I can say a lot of teams have been calling. A lot of teams.”

Williamson’s agent is Neil Cornrich, who represents several NFL players as well as Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and Texans coach Bill O’Brien — not to mention Oklahoma Sooners coach Bob Stoops, brother of UK coach Mark Stoops. Cornrich said Williamson’s stock “increased exponentially” after the combine.

While he’d racked up 237 tackles the last two seasons, playing in the mighty Southeastern Conference no less, there were questions about Williamson’s speed, quickness and explosiveness. He answered those by posting the combine’s third-fastest shuttle run (4.07), sixth-fastest 40-yard dash (4.66), eighth-most reps on the 225-pound bench press (25) and ninth-best broad jump (10 feet) at his position. Winner of UK’s “Mr. Wildcat” award for all-round excellence in athletics, academics, character and service, Williamson also reportedly nailed his interviews. now rates him the No. 8 inside linebacker available in the draft.

“They found out he was very fast, very smart and a very nice person,” Cornrich said. “It’s very rare that someone is so gifted in all those areas. A number of teams brought him in for individual visits. Those types of visits are usually reserved for really very good players. When he goes on visits to places where I have friends in those organizations, they all call back and go, ‘Wow, what a solid guy.’

“He has demonstrated that he possesses the characteristics to play 10 years in the NFL.”

But many teams might never have noticed if not for his standout combine performance. Williamson, his father and his agent say he owes that to Erik Korem and Corey Edmond, who run the cutting-edge “High Performance” program at Kentucky — a non-traditional strength-and-conditioning program head coach Mark Stoops installed when he took over the program last year.

“They did a spectacular job” with Williamson, Cornrich said. “If there were people better than those guys, we would hire them.”

Many agents push their clients to training facilities around the country — Florida, California and Arizona are popular spots — to prepare for the combine. One agent who recruited Williamson wanted him to relocate to Miami for workouts.

“I told him I didn’t think that would be a wise idea to go down there when he had training right there at Kentucky,” said his father. “After he stayed — and he could get his education and all that — he said he was real glad we made that decision. Kentucky really brought him a long ways. They really helped develop him.”

Now Williamson, whose only other scholarship offers coming out of high school were from Arkansas State and New Mexico, is on the cusp of becoming an NFL draft pick. And Henry Williamson has become Avery’s Dad around town.

“It’s something that we really hadn’t expected,” Henry said. “It’s just something we were hoping for. It’s a dream come true.”

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