Texas left tackle Connor Williams, drops back to pass block against California's Puka Lopa, right, in the second half of the NCAA game held at Royal-Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, September 19, 2015. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Football

Brawn, brains and work ethic: Texas’ Connor Williams prefers the quiet approach

Now weighing 300 pounds, Williams hopes to build upon his freshman All-American season at one of football's most difficult positions

Posted August 19th, 2016

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Story highlights
  • Williams took some online junior college courses in high school to finish early.
  • Enrolling in January 2015 was a major reason why Williams earned a starting job.
  • Williams: "I just try to be quiet, put my head down and work.”

It’s hard to tell what’s more impressive about Texas sophomore Connor Williams, a brute at left tackle.

He graduated early from Coppell, enrolled in January 2015, started all 12 games last season and became a freshman All-American. Obviously, those are impressive enough.

But Williams did all of that while maintaining a 3.5 grade point average for a year and a half, thus earning a ticket into UT’s prestigious McCombs School of Business. Last anyone checked, they do not allow slouches into those hallowed halls.

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“He was pretty proud of that. I was proud of that,” said Jimmy Williams, Connor’s father.

How’d he do it? Well, Connor Williams has always been one of those people who thrive when challenged, his father said. “We told Connor, once you make a C, you’re probably not getting into the business school,” Jimmy Williams said. “So he kind of knew what he was up against.”

Texas left tackle Connor Williams, right, pass protects as (13) Jerrod Heard throws down field against California in the second half of the NCAA game held at Darrell K Royal -Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Tx., on Saturday, September 19, 2015. California defeated Texas 45-44. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Texas sophomore Connor Williams could make a lot of money someday as a NFL left tackle. Not that you’ll get him to talk about it now. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

What’s Williams going to do with all that knowledge? “I think I’m going into finance,” Connor said.

Left tackles make a lot of money in the NFL. Insane might be an apt description. For example, Washington Redskins tackle Trent Williams signed a six-year rookie deal worth $60 million. The Pro Bowler signed a new contract last year with $30 million in guaranteed money. Ten left tackles currently have deals with more than $20 million in guaranteed money.

Williams already has a 6-foot-6 frame. Last season, he weighed about 285 pounds. New offensive line coach Matt Mattox wanted Williams to beef up, and now he checks in at 300 pounds. “Lot of meals,” said Williams, who admitted a long-held love of cooking.

“I used to want to be a chef when I was younger,” Williams said. “My mom and day always said I was a good cook.”

Breakfast, steaks, you name it. Family members recall a time when Williams and his older brother, Dalton, had a cook-off in the house based on five ingredients. So how does Williams judge the delicacies served in Texas’ dining hall? “That’s mostly for nutrition. I just eat it. But it’s pretty good.”

Williams chooses what comes out just as carefully as what he puts in. He doesn’t talk about NFL paydays. It can even be difficult to get him talking about the Longhorns. He doesn’t like saying much about anything, at least not in press conferences. That’s by design.

“It doesn’t matter what you say,” Williams said. “There are all these cameras, but behind the scenes, hype isn’t good. Well, it is to an extent. I just try to be quiet, put my head down and work.”

Whether in the classroom or the football field, Williams certainly does that.

Like when former UT offensive line coach Joe Wickline stressed that Williams should enroll early to get a head start on the competition. Williams took some online junior college courses along with his final high school classes. He got it all done and was on campus for spring practice in 2015.

It helped that Williams watched his older brother play college football. Dalton Williams played quarterback at Stephen F. Austin (2008-11) and then went to Akron as a graduate transfer. Dalton threw for 3,387 yards in 2012 with the Zips along with 25 touchdowns. He’s now a graduate assistant at West Virginia with Wickline.

Williams also watched his sister, Morgan, go through Texas and earn a radio-television-film degree. She’s now a television producer in Los Angeles.

So the baby of the family knew what college football and university academics entailed.

“He’s always been ahead of himself,” said Williams’ mother, Debbie. “Just because he’s 19, he’s like an older soul. He’s always just ready to go. We talked about it and talked about the things he would miss out in high school. I told him this was OK just as long as he never came back and said I should’ve, could’ve, would’ve.”

Oh, don’t worry about that, Mom. Williams is a huge proponent of the decision. “Coming through spring ball with the team, it’s a huge advantage,” he said.

Williams encouraged Zach Shackelford to finish up early at Belton, which is exactly what Shackelford did before joining the Horns in January. Now, Shackelford is the projected starting center as a freshman.

Williams wasn’t the only freshman All-American on the offensive line. Patrick Vahe started 10 games at right guard last season and earned similar honors.

Asked if he was getting into UT’s business school, Vahe said, “Uh, no. I’ll try for something different.”

As for Williams, Vahe keeps it short, too, lest he reveal something the private Williams doesn’t want known. “He’s just another guy with a goal, a plan,” Vahe said.

And that’s just fine with the Longhorns.

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com.

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