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KLEE: Broncos' first-round pick knows about hard work

By: Paul Klee
April 25, 2013
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photo - FILE - This Oct. 8, 2011 file photo shows North Carolina's Sylvester Williams (92) rushing Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) for a sack during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Chapel Hill, N.C.  Older players who have taken different routes to college football have become mentors in Atlantic Coast Conference locker rooms filled with teenagers who have known only football. The value of players like Clemson's Daniel Rodriguez or North Carolina's Sylvester Williams is about more than what they do on the field. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File) Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
FILE - This Oct. 8, 2011 file photo shows North Carolina's Sylvester Williams (92) rushing Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) for a sack during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Chapel Hill, N.C. Older players who have taken different routes to college football have become mentors in Atlantic Coast Conference locker rooms filled with teenagers who have known only football. The value of players like Clemson's Daniel Rodriguez or North Carolina's Sylvester Williams is about more than what they do on the field. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File) Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS 

ENGLEWOOD — With the No. 28 pick in the NFL draft, the Broncos selected an auto-parts specialist.

As Peyton Manning says in an commercial for automobiles: “How about that?”

Sylvester Williams knows cars. In particular, he knows car radiators. He once worked on an assembly line at Modine Manufacturing Co., an auto-parts factory in St. Louis.

His trench then was different than his trenches now.

“I think the guy maybe understands what a blessing this is,” Broncos coach John Fox said late Thursday at Dove Valley.

Sylvester Williams is 6-foot-3, 313 pounds. “Sly” has the body and the position of a defensive tackle and the employment history of Tommy Boy.

Worst-case scenario for the Broncos: If Manning’s Buick breaks down, all he must do is walk across the locker room to find his new mechanic.

Best-case scenario: The Broncos finally drafted the “anchor,” as John Elway put it, of a defensive line with more moving parts than Modine Manufacturing’s assembly line.

Good pick?

Bad pick?

Big Sly is both.

Good pick if you like athletes who have seen how the other side lives, and I do. They know what a real job is. They know where they will go if this pro-athlete thing doesn’t work out:

Back to the assembly line.

When Manning says it’s time to clock in, Williams knows exactly what that means.

Williams wrecked quarterbacks for North Carolina in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Before that, he was a walk-on at Coffeyville Community College in the Jayhawk Community College Conference.

“That’s what drives me to work hard,” Williams said.

Williams — the Broncos hope — will wreck quarterbacks as a longtime starter in the NFL.

Before that, he started playing organized football as a high school junior.

“I used to be a basketball player (in high school) and thought I was pretty good,” Williams said.

Before all of this, Williams worked on diesel engines and radiators at an automobile plant.

If nothing else, the Broncos drafted a great story.

The hope is they drafted a great player — a “10-year player,” like Elway said he wanted — in a first round jam-packed with 18 offensive and defensive linemen.

There were other, sexier, options than the auto-parts-specialist-turned-first-rounder.

Manti Te’o was still there, presumably with a plus-1. I'll pass.

Alex Ogletree, the linebacker from Georgia, was still there. The Broncos passed.

Eddie Lacy, the running back from Alabama, was still there. I did, and do, want him in Manning's backfield.

It's a bad pick if you wanted a big, bad tailback early in the draft, and I do. The Broncos should look for Lacy or Le'Veon Bell or Montee Ball when the draft rolls into Friday.

I thought Denver’s pick would be a defensive back, either Desmond Trufant or Xavier Rhodes. The Falcons and Vikings intercepted the interceptors just ahead of the Broncos.

The Broncos went for Sly.

“We had mocks all week,” Elway said. “He didn’t get to us in any of the mocks.”

How Williams got here, to the Broncos in the first round of the NFL draft, is quite a story.

Paul Klee is the Denver sports columnist for The Gazette. Reach him via email (paul.klee@gazette.com) or on Twitter (@Klee_Gazette).


How the (AFC) West was built
(1) Kansas City — OT Eric Fisher (6-7, 306, Central Michigan)
Alex Smith — yes, he’s their QB — can sleep easier with MAC product on O-line
(11) San Diego — OT D.J. Fluker (6-5, 339, Alabama)
Who gets more face time on draft night — UK’s John Calipari or Bama’s Nick Saban?
(12) Oakland — CB D.J. Hayden (5-11, 191, Houston)
Former Broncos ‘D’ coordinator Dennis Allen surely enjoyed adding to Raiders defense
(28) Denver — DT Sylvester Williams (6-3, 313, North Carolina)
Excellent strength as a bull rusher and can penetrate the backfield, as 13½ tackles for loss in 2012 proved.

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