Vanderbilt may not be a powerhouse college football program, but they consistently send talent to the NFL draft. This year, th cream of their crop was found right in their own backyard.
Right here in Nashville, the Commodores found themselves a skilled, long cornerback prospect in the form of JoeJuan Williams.
Williams recently spoke exclusively with MCM about what it meant to stay in-state and play in Nashville, what being drafted at home will feel like, and why his ball production has been a popular talking point throughout his team meetings.
JM: What was the experience like for you at the combine?
JW: It was a great experience. I really enjoyed talking with the coaches and what not. Meeting a bunch of guys who are going through the same process that I am was quite refreshing. I was thankful for the opportunity to talk ball with those guys. I really enjoyed my time there. I know I left the combine with some questions about my long speed after my 40 yard dash. I wanted to go out at my Pro Day and prove that I am fast and I thought I did that by running a 4.55.
JM: It sounds like you feel great about how your Pro Day went.
JW: It was definitely a big day for me. I ran a 4.6 at the combine. Getting that number down to 4.55 at my Pro Day was good for me. I felt great about that. I ran a 4.01 shuttle and a 6.84 L-drill as well. I also had a 36-inch vertical. Everyone in attendance was happy with my performance. I just wanted to put those numbers up because I didn’t test in anything other than the 40 at the combine. I wanted to make sure that I showcased my overall athleticism.
JM: I’m glad you showcased your athletic ability because those numbers line up more with what I see on film. Did you have a lot of formal or informal interviews at the combine?
JW: I had about 14 formals. Whichever teams I didn’t interview with formally, I met them informally. I spoke with all 32 teams down there. It was definitely cool.
JM: Do you have any private visits or workouts coming up?
JW: I just wrapped up a few workouts. I worked out for the Cowboys and the Falcons. I have the Saints coming up. I’m having dinner with them and working out with a few of their coaches. I’m working out for the Texans. After that, I’m travelling to Buffalo for a private visit. I’ll be at the Titans local day as well.
JM: What was the strangest question you were asked at the combine?
JW: I didn’t really get any weird questions. Some of my friends did but I didn’t get anything weird at all.
JM: I thought your play took a big leap this past season. Did you do anything differently to prepare for it?
JW: I give a lot of credit to the coaching staff. I was top three in pass breakups in the SEC after my sophomore season. I needed to get more interceptions though. I worked on that with my coaches. We spent so much time on that. Most of my training revolved around getting my hands on the ball. I was working on that from different positions and areas of the field. I was putting myself in awkward positions to be prepared for every scenario. I was diving at low balls. I just practiced on taking the ball away. If you look at my four interceptions this year, they weren’t exactly bread basket picks. The work I put in paid off and it shows up on film.
I had one pick where I battled for the ball with the receiver on the sideline. I had another pick where the ball was in the air and I had to reach back for it. There was another pick where I drove on the ball and the receiver had his hands all over me but I still came down with it. The last pick was a deep ball pick. I went up vertically and got that one. It was definitely something that I worked on and it shows. I’m glad all my hard work paid off.
JW: Yeah, they most definitely are. Looking at the ball production, I know I’m one of the best defensive backs in this draft. I played like a top defensive back in the nation last year. A lot of coaches have been talking about that ball production you just mentioned. That’s something they’ve been grading me on. Every coach values a defensive back that gets his hands on the ball. I feel like I can make plays on the ball. I’ve shown that.
JM: You were born and raised in Nashville and you went to school just down the street at Vanderbilt. How much is it gonna mean for you to hear your name called in your very own hometown?
JW: It’s gonna be a special moment. It’s definitely gonna be special being in Nashville. Being from Nashville and going to school in Nashville, I can’t believe the draft landed here this year. It’s so perfect. I’ve been putting on for my family and for this city. I’m so proud to be representing Vanderbilt. I hope everyone at Vandy realizes that they can make something of themselves. I know Vanderbilt is thought of as more of an academic school but we can ball as well. We can make it to the league. That’s something that I wanna show. It’s been shown by Casey Heyward, Jordan Matthews, Zach Cunningham, Jay Cutler, Andre Hal, Oren Burks and so on. It’s a point that I wanna keep pressing to the world. That’s definitely big for me. I’m so excited that the draft is in Nashville this year. It’s gonna be special.
JM: In closing, what kind of impact is JoeJuan Williams gonna make at the next level?
JW: I’ve been telling teams that they’re getting the entire package on the field. I can run, cover and hit. I have the ability to lock down the number one receiver on the field. I have the ability to come up in run support and help the team that way as well. I feel like they’re getting the best of both worlds. I’m going to be an asset to the organization off the field as well. I love giving back to the inner city and being a pillar in my community. I’ve always given back to where I came from. I’m going to be a familiar face in the community for whichever team drafts me. I’m a leader on and off the field basically.