New Titans nose tackle Sylvester Williams, who reached two Super Bowls with the Broncos, said the Titans’ offense and fans were great in last season’s victory over Denver.
Sylvester Williams got his blue-collar work ethic from Walmart.
That’s where he worked after high school, and in a factory that made radiators before enrolling in community college, transferring to North Carolina and becoming a first-round draft pick by the Broncos. Before playing in two Super Bowls, winning one of them. Before hitting free agency.
Williams, a 6-foot-2, 313-pound nose tackle who goes by “Sly,” stepped behind a microphone in the auditorium at Titans headquarters Tuesday as the sixth player added to the roster in the last week, and the third with Super Bowl experience on his rather unique résumé. He agreed to a three-year deal, a source with knowledge of the negotiations confirmed to The Tennessean. Financial details have not been disclosed, but Williams acknowledged he chose the Titans over a multi-year offer from the Broncos, who previously declined to pick up his $6.757 million fifth-year option.
“Anybody that’s involved in the NFL is blessed, one, financially, and two, with the opportunities that it presents,” Williams said. “So having this opportunity — I know what it’s like to work a 9-to-5, an everyday job and to have to pay bills — and that’s why I’m so grateful for this opportunity and I don’t take it for granted. Not one day.”
Williams brings a run-stuffing veteran presence to the middle of the Titans’ defensive line, the speed and relentlessness to pressure opposing quarterbacks, and the knowledge and work ethic it takes to make it to the sport’s grandest stage. He joins an exclusive club, along with fellow recent Titans acquisitions in former Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan and former longtime Falcons return man Eric Weems, last seen on the field together in Super Bowl LI.
“I think it will help certain guys who haven’t had that experience — guys who look up to that, seeing how this guy does it, that guy does it,” Weems said at his introductory press conference on Monday. “Guys look at certain guys who’ve been at that level and look and see how they’re doing in the classroom, versus being physical on the field, because you’ve got to learn in the classroom, as well.”
Williams will likely start on the Titans’ defensive line between Jurrell Casey and DaQuan Jones, as the roster stands. Former second-round pick Austin Johnson and undrafted Antwaun Woods, both entering their second season in the league, also remain in the mix at nose tackle. Veteran Al Woods, who started seven games last season, was released last week.
Williams was drafted by the Broncos out of UNC with the 28th overall pick in the first round in 2013. He’s played in 60 games and started 48, including all 16 last season, when he finished with 29 tackles and a sack. He has 94 career tackles and six sacks in four seasons, plus a championship ring from Super Bowl 50.
“Anytime you’ve got a guy or guys that have been in the Super Bowl and know what it takes to get there,” Williams said, “I think putting them in the mix with other guys can give the opportunity to kind of spread some of the experience and knowledge around.”
Titans general manager Jon Robinson, who spent 12 years climbing the scouting ranks with the Patriots, has said repeatedly that he prizes “tough, dependable, team-first guys” and sees value in a roster mixed with youth and veterans.
It’s a bonus if those vets have championship experience, and it’s required they have the work ethic that can result in a parade.
“I’m not here to make any promises,” said Ryan, who’s won two Super Bowls since being drafted by the Patriots in the third round in 2013, Robinson’s final season in New England, “but they’re getting a guy who’s going to come to work every day. I’m very blue collar in that nature. I’ll do whatever it takes to put the team first. In my past, I’ve played outside, I’ve played inside, I’ve tackled, I’ve blitzed. It didn’t matter to me. I want to win football games.”
Like Williams, he’d probably also stock shelves.