After a nearly career-altering neck injury in 2015, Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams bounced back in his senior year in a big way, and has jumped to the top of the wide receiver boards.
Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams began his junior season with excitement followed immediately by pain.
After catching a touchdown in the season opener, he collided with the goal post and fractured his neck, and just like that, after an impressive sophomore campaign with more than 1,000 yards receiving, his season was finished.
The next year he more than made up for it. Williams returned as a second-team Walter Camp All-American and first-team All-ACC pick to catch 84 passes for 1,171 yards and 10 scores. A good portion of them showed off his ability to make contested plays, using his 6-foot-4, 218-pound body to jump over defenders.
"Just the confidence that I have, from practice," Williams said of the secret to making highlight catches. "I just believe if the ball is in the air, it's mine. That's just confidence gained from practice and just going out there every day having fun."
Williams also made those kinds of catches an important part of his practice regimen, knowing where his feet and body is positioned as the ball comes down.
"That's mainly what I practice at Clemson is the boundary," Williams said. "It's a small amount of field over there, when you're on that boundary. You just have to be physical over there and work a lot of technique."
Among the many mock drafts that have been written over the last couple months, Williams is at, or near, the top of the wide receivers list. His 4.49 40-yard dash at Clemson's Pro Day along with a 32.5 inch vertical, 121-inch broad jump and 15 bench press reps have certainly helped his cause, too.
"I want to go where somebody wants me," Williams said. "I feel like I'm one of the best receivers there, but I want to go where somebody wants me."
Naturally, somebody will want him. As a member of the winning National Championship team several months ago, and on the receiving end of Heisman Trophy runner-up Deshaun Watson's passes, Williams knows what it takes to reach the pinnacle of success.
That's also come from playing against some of the better defensive backs and players in the conference along with those from powerhouses Alabama and Ohio State, many of whom will be first round draft picks themselves.
"Last year we didn't know what it takes to win a national championship," he said. "Coming back this year, we knew what it took. We had experience in our quarterback and the rest of the offense to redeem ourselves."
Williams looks up to a number of NFL wide receivers – from current stars in A.J. Green to retired ones such as Calvin Johnson – and knows his skillset speaks for itself in the face of other wide receiving options in the draft.
"Probably my physicality," Williams said of his defining trait. "Coming from a program like Clemson, competing with the best every day. Going to the league, it's going to be different, but I feel like I'm ready for it."