ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Broncos first-round pick Sylvester Williams once thought his football career was over. Now, it's just beginning.
The North Carolina graduate was out of high school and working in a factory as a teenager. Years later, he has earned a Denver Broncos uniform.
"I worked in that factory, and it showed me what hard work really is," Williams said after being drafted. "Being able to play football as a job is a blessing."
The 313-pound interior lineman started all 45 games in his collegiate career, which included two years at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas. As he tried to get his academic and athletic career back on track, his performance at Coffeyville garnered attention from D-I schools. Williams ultimately chose to spend his final two years in college as a North Carolina Tar Heel.
"(Going) to Coffeyville basically made my whole entire career," Williams said. "Because when I went to Coffeyville, I worked the (defensive) line and got to compete at a high level. It helped me to learn how to work hard."
Head Coach John Fox recognized the road that Williams has traveled to reach this point.
"I think that's a reason for his maturity," Fox said. "The guy kind of understands what a blessing it is to have that kind of ability. He's going to try to make the most of it from our phone conversation. I think he's mature for his age."
In his senior campaign at North Carolina, Williams racked up 13.5 tackles for loss and six sacks, reeling in All-ACC honors. The Jefferson City, Mo. native also netted an All-America first-team selection by Pro Football Weekly.
Broncos' brass had chances to trade the club's first-round pick in exchange for multiple later picks. But with a talent like Williams still on the board, Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway wasn’t budging.
"We had an opportunity to go back," Elway said. "Once Sylvester was there we said, 'No this is the guy we want. We're going to stay here.' We did have an option to go back, but we didn't want to. We were thrilled that Sylvester was there and we didn't want to move."
Williams visited the team and its facilities at Dove Valley in mid-April and said he "felt right at home." He'll begin settling in shortly. The Broncos' rookie mini-camp is on May 10.
"When they called on me it was a blessing," the draftee recalled. "I'm going to be a Bronco, and I can't wait to give it everything I've got."