T.J. Williams caught 35 passes at N.C. State last year but knows that blocking is just as essential to his job in the NFL
(by Jeremy White, NFLHS.com)
Former North Carolina State tight end T.J. Williams packs 269 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame, giving him a body equally suited to blocking and pass catching.
Last year with the Wolfpack, he caught 35 passes for 371 yards and two touchdowns. Averaging more than 20 yards per catch, Williams displayed big-play ability, and that's a trait coaches clearly find exciting.
"My main strength is stretching the field, getting up field and going after the ball," says Williams, who was chosen in the sixth round of the 2006 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "My blocking rates pretty high, too. I'm a pretty good blocker. But there's always room for improvement in every part of your game."
Prior to his days at N.C. State, Williams enjoyed a versatile and successful prep career at Tarboro High School in Tarboro, North Carolina. As the team's star, Williams was put just about everywhere on the field at different points. Basically, he played wherever he was needed the most.
"I played many positions in high school," he recalls. "I played wide receiver, quarterback, linebacker, tight end, safety. I played a little bit of everywhere. I also returned kicks and punts."
Williams says he realized at Tarboro that he was going to need to beef up to be successful at the next level, so he dedicated himself to adding bulk.
"In high school I put on 20 pounds in two weeks by eating, lifting and working out," he says. "I figured I needed to put it on. I was 220 pounds and I figured I needed to be up to 240 to succeed at the college level."
While it may not be advisable for high school kids to attempt such a drastic weight gain in that short of a time period, Williams was being eyed by N.C. State as well as Virginia Tech, Florida State, East Carolina University and Tennessee. He wanted to impress coaches at these institutions and believed developing his body was the best way.
What would Williams recommend high school tight ends do then, regardless of their weight, muscle mass and their ability (or lack thereof) to bulk up?
"Work on your blocking and your route running," he advises. "Blocking is an essential part of the position. You aren't going to catch 70 or 80 passes, like a wide receiver. You have two jobs, and one is just as important to the team as the other.
"Then, with route running, you can't slack off there, either. In high school, it's easier to get open because the linebackers running with you maybe aren't as fast or don't really know how to cover a receiver. But that changes when you run into somebody as good as you are - and you will, in college if not in high school. Running precise routes becomes really important then."