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NFL Draft: The Tweener

Maryland safety Madieu Williams could go as early as the second round

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By Matthew Waxman

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  Madieu Williams
Though he might be a second-round pick, Williams still plans to live like an undrafted free agent.
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Madieu Williams is seated in a small hotel meeting room lit by a solitary lamp. It is late January and the Maryland safety is in Mobile, Ala., for the Senior Bowl, where he must submit to such interviews. Seated across from him is the Cleveland Browns' team psychiatrist while a dozen Browns staffers, including coach Butch Davis, lurk in the shadows. In his role as Bad Cop, the shrink grabs Williams's wrist, takes his pulse and looks him in the eye. "Have you ever done drugs before?" he asks. Williams replies, "No," which sets the doctor off: "You're telling me you've never smoked weed? Don't lie to me. You might as well tell me because we're going to find out anyway."

Williams maintains his innocence, so the doctor changes his line of interrogation. "Do you consider yourself a leader?" he asks. After a moment Williams replies, "Yes, I defin -- "

"What kind of leader are you?" the doctor interjects.

"Well, I try to lead by ex -- "

"I didn't ask you that. I said, 'Are you a leader?' Now answer the question."

Each time Williams attempts to answer he is cut off. Nearly three months later, now comfortably seated in Maryland's training complex, he says of the experience: "They try and see if you're easily flustered, but I knew what they were trying to do so I stayed calm. To be honest, I wanted to laugh."

But for Williams, preparing for the NFL draft is no laughing matter. After two years as a second-team All-ACC free safety, Williams initially was slotted as a likely second-day pick. (The first three rounds of the draft take place next Saturday, the final four on Sunday.) But after more than two months of intense training and workouts for the pros -- the 6'1" 193-pounder ran a 4.46 40-yard dash at Maryland's pro day -- Williams is hearing whispers that he could be tabbed as early as the middle of the second round. Rookie salaries are slotted roughly by draft position, and Williams understands that every spot he climbs guarantees him more money. "Just like someone might invest in property or a company, my body is my investment," he says. "Working out now is a small price to pay to get big rewards."

Despite his fast-rising status, Williams still believes in fiscal restraint. "My motto is, If it's free, I'm there," he says. "And that's not going to change. If I can save five bucks, that's a sandwich at Potbelly's." He has hired a financial advisor and will use his signing bonus (a mid-second-rounder can score a bonus in the neighborhood of $1.5 million; a mid-third-rounder, $500,000) only to buy a modest place of his own and to allow his mother to quit her second job to concentrate on her nurse duties. And don't expect to see this jock behind the wheel of a decked out funkmobile. "My [1998] Chrysler Concorde gets me where I need to go -- the practice facility," he says.

Fittingly, Williams won't celebrate draft day with a big party; instead, he'll be in Pilates class. "I'm not going to get too caught up in it," he says. "You just have to wait and see when your name is called."

Issue date: April 15, 2004

SI On Campus: April 15, 2004 issue 
SI ON CAMPUS

Sports Illustrated On Campus, a new magazine covering college sports and collegiate lifestyles, is available as an insert in 72 major college newspapers across the country every Thursday throughout the school year. Click any of the links below to see selected content from the latest issue, or click here to get the entire issue in digital format.

NFL Draft:
     The Sure Thing: Ben Roethlisberger
     The Tweener: Madieu Williams
     The Long Shot: Nate Lawrie
Road Trip: Maryland-Hopkins Lacrosse
Previous issue: April 8, 2004
 

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