Defensive end Julius Williams headed into the 2009 NFL Draft thinking he would get selected after playing four seasons at the University of Connecticut. It didn't happen and a month later you don't sense any frustration or disappointment with Williams.
The Decatur, Georgia native has been down this road before and hopes it ends the same way. As a junior at Towers High School, Williams suffered a knee injury in the third game of the season that sidelined him for a year. He headed into his senior season with very few scholarship offers as colleges waited to see how the knee responded.
"As soon as I got hurt and could walk again I started getting treatment," Williams said. "We didn't have a trainer at my high school so I went to the local hospital to rehab."
Williams finished his high school career with 46 sacks and led his team to the first two state playoff berths in school history. The offers came in late from Georgia Tech, Ole Miss and Maryland after he proved he was back from his injury. He chose Connecticut after one visit and proved himself over again.
Williams, 6-2, 260, ended up being a part of a senior class that put the Connecticut program on the national landscape. The Huskies went to three bowl games and won the Big East Championship in 2007 during Williams' four seasons.
'I definitely take satisfaction," Willliams said. "When I first got there we all sat down with the coaches and we had a plan to turn that thing around and we did. Most of the goals we set as freshman we achieved by the time I was a senior. I take a lot of pride in that because it came from hard work and building from the ground up."
Williams played four seasons at Connecticut including every game as a true freshman in 2004. He finished with 23 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks and was a leader on the defense. He sat out as a medical redshirt in 2005, but did not miss a game his final three seasons.
"Nothing is going to stop me from playing," Williams said. "I love this game and I've been playing it forever. Nothing can keep me from my putting on my uniform and going out there."
Even though he visited Jacksonville a couple weeks before the draft, Williams didn't take anything for granted. When he wasn't selected, the Jaguars called and offered a spot as a free agent. He didn't hesitate.
"The one thing they explained to me was that I had a chance to make the team there," Williams said. "That is what it's all about as a free agent. I just wanted to go somewhere where I had a real chance to make it."
Williams joins a group of young defensive ends on the Jaguars roster along with veteran Reggie Hayward. The Jaguars selected Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves with their first two picks in the 2008 draft.
When Williams arrived in Jacksonville four days after the draft for his first minicamp, it was tough to wipe the smile off his face.
"Playing in the NFL has always been a dream of mine," Williams said. "Just to have a chance to walk in a NFL lockerroom and put on a Jaguars helmet means the world to me. I just wanted to go out and make a good first impression."
The rookies returned to Jacksonville last week for three OTA practices and are working out without the veterans this week. The full squad returns next week to resume on-field practices. Williams has been using the time wisely, studying his playbook at night and getting acclimated to the system.
"When you have to think you can't play as hard," Williams said. "If we install something I want to know everything about it. When I do go out then I can play fast and not think."
His current situation is similar to his senior season of high school. Plenty of people are watching and now he has to prove he belongs.
"I am very fortunate and blessed to have the opportunity. It's not something I take for granted and not something I feel should be given to me. I understand there are tons of people that go about it every day that are great players that never make it to the NFL," Williams said.