When former Ohio State University defensive end Nathan Williams sat out the 2011 season with a knee injury that limited him to just one game, he believed there were benefits from remaining around the program while working his way back to the field.
Although he had surgery on the knee and missed the season, the 6-foot-3, 249-pound Williams was still active with the team and enjoyed learning the game from Ohio State assistant, Mike Vrabel. The former Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs linebacker mentored Ohio State’s defensive linemen in 2012.
“I got to sit back and hear him without being able to play,” Williams said of Vrabel. “Playing at such a high level and not being able to play and having to take coaching and learn from what he was telling other guys throughout the whole offseason and spring ball were a tremendous asset that I had the opportunity to have.
“With such a highly touted and decorated career that Mike Vrabel had, all the great things he did -- winning the Super Bowl; he played on some great teams and started on some great teams -- and having such a great career, I learned a lot as far as his mentality to the game and just the overall toughness, attitude he brought. Coach Vrabel had his own, unique way of coaching and I think it’s very effective and I think he’s going to have a tremendous group this offseason. I’m looking forward to watching them.”
After helping teach him the game from a mental standpoint, Vrabel guided Williams on his comeback season in 2012. Williams registered 40 total tackles and 19 solo stops. He also forced and recovered a fumble for the Buckeyes, who finished with an undefeated mark of 12-0 in 2012.
“It’s hard to be where you were with no offseason and missing the whole previous season before that,” Williams said. “I was very self-motivated, and very motivated to get back for Coach (Urban) Meyer and all the coaches. I know they believed in me. They wanted me to be a part of the defense, and so did I. That’s why I did what I did and made it back by the first game.”
A native of Washington Court House, Ohio, and graduate of Miami Trace High School, Williams said playing at Ohio State “prepared me in a lot of ways” for life at the NFL level.
“Having the best coaches prepare you for the next level is a tremendous asset,” Williams said. “It depends on what you do with it, and how consistent you are with the coaching. If you don’t take the coaching, you’re going to fall behind, but if you take the coaching and you adapt and learn from what they’re teaching you and how moves are effective, that just makes you a better player.
“I think I’m very versatile. I can play inside, outside, off the line of scrimmage, wherever they need me. I’m looking forward to being coached and I crave coaching. I just want to get better as a player and I know that I have a very high ceiling. I’m looking forward to doing it where it counts, and that’s in the NFL.”