By Susan Harman
Your Prep Sports
Mondo Williams is nothing if not enthusiastic. If sheer force of will seasoned with self-confidence was all it took for a college football player to be drafted by the NFL, Williams would be a first-rounder.
Williams, a former West High track and football star, is a bundle of energy as he prepares for the NFL Draft.
He finished his college career as a first-team all-conference cornerback at Appalachian State and graduated in December. He has spent the intervening months training on campus and preparing for the draft.
The Mountaineers held their pro day workouts recently, and Williams was pretty excited about his performance in front of scouts.
“I knew it was coming up that day, so I sent him a text message that afternoon that someone had posted a video of his 40-yard dash,” West High assistant football and track coach Tyler Meade said.
“He called me back within 5 minutes. I asked how it went, and all the adjectives (started flowing), ‘Amazing…’”
Williams spent two years at Appalachian State after starting his career at Iowa Western Community College. He redshirted one year and played two seasons for the Reivers,
If that seems like a long road to travel to get the attention of scouts, it is.
Spending three years at a junior college trying to get the attention of Division I football programs created doubt and anxiety even for the ebullient Williams. But in his last year at junior college he created his own news clippings, earning second-team All-America honors. He holds IWCC records for interceptions in a game (4) and in one season (8).
Five years of college ball is a long road, but it’s been even longer if you consider where Williams started.
Meade has kept up with Williams and recalled his relatively modest start as a Trojan.
As Brian Sauser’s new coaching staff was trying to reenergize the football program in 2009 it brought up several players from the sophomore team. Williams was not among them.
At that stage he was a good player but did not stand out in a class that included Charlie Rogers, Anthony Brown, Dondre Alexander and Richard Bryant.
Meade remembered that group always talking about reaching the NFL even though that’s a once-in-a-generation kind of accomplishment. But he wasn’t about to discourage the dream, even as farfetched as it seemed then, because of the kind of work ethic Williams displayed along with the fervor with which he held his dream.
Williams made a big leap forward after his sophomore season.
“His junior year, the first weeks in camp and practice, he stood out,’ Meade said. “He was making a lot of plays in the kicking game and at receiver and at cornerback. He never had a chip on his shoulder or a bad attitude. His senior year he really showed what he could do.”
West made a major move his senior season in football, posting a 9-3 record and winning a conference championship, and then won the state track title the following spring.
Williams anchored the winning 4×200 relay at the Drake Relays and at state and was a key component of the team’s success.
Meade stressed that Williams showed great character and leadership that year as the school and the community absorbed the tragedy of losing classmate Caroline Found.
He was not recruited by Division I schools and elected to go to Iowa Western. After three years at IWCC he proved he could play at the major-college level and helped the Mountaineers to a 21-5 record and two bowl victories.
After graduating he stayed in his apartment and worked out with the school’s strength coach.
“For workouts we come in and do a lot of stretching,” he said. “Way more than we do in the Division I program here. I did a lot of bench workouts. We don’t do a lot of squatting; it’s more like bench press and lots of jumps. Once we hit the field there’s a lot of speed workouts, which I’m used to.”
He excels in a drill called the 10-yard get off, which is supposed to translate to a cornerback’s take off as he covers a wide receiver.
At his Pro Day Williams had a 4.37 time in the 40 and a 35-inch vertical jump, both marks were the best among his teammates.
“The 40-yard dash is really important for me,” Williams said. “Because I have to go after those freak athletes. So that shows I can run with those elite guys. That opened up a lot of scouts’ eyes.”
Scouts at the Pro Day told him they’d like to see him gain seven or eight pounds.
“That’s difficult for me, but it’s not like it’s the end of the world,” Williams joked. “It’s not like they’re saying ‘you’re not fast enough; you’re not good enough; you can’t catch the ball.’”
“Everyone who knows him knows he’s small and undersized,” Meade said. “I think he told me he measured in at 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds. You’ve got pros at that position who are 200 pounds and wide receivers are upward of 230 pounds.”
Williams is realistic about the draft. He knows he had only two years of Division I exposure, whereas other cornerbacks may have played three or four years. But all he wants is a chance to prove himself even if it’s a free-agent tryout.
“With what I did on Pro Day I’m satisfied with all the numbers,” he said. “I got good feedback, so now I just have to go even harder.”
Williams will be back in Iowa City for the draft, which is April 27-29. It’s been a long journey, but now the destination doesn’t seem quite so farfetched.