Will Jesse Williams make NFL mainstream down under?
Alabama defensive lineman Jesse Williams (54). (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
Enough ink has been spilt on Jesse ‘the Monstar’ Williams this week to cover the big man’s hulking frame with a fresh set of tattoos.
Among the NFL draft predictions, Prime Ministerial skype sessions, and odd embellishment by excitable American commentators when they weren’t checking out young talent in the stands, was an interesting comment Williams made in the aftermath of his victorious BCS championship game.
The bloke with the front-end-loader frame and Mr T hairdo spoke passionately about his wish to grow the sport of American football back in Australia, and how such a goal was something he would like to tackle head on.
Hearing the news, NFL fans down under smiled, while those involved in our grassroots gridiron competitions must have celebrated in a fashion that even Terrell Owens would have deemed excessive.
Because you see what might have sounded to some like a young kid trying to placate his 24 million new best friends, was actually kind of a big deal.
For starters, the Monstar doesn’t miss too many things he sets out to tackle.
And secondly, Williams is a poster boy the likes of which we’ve never seen. Or even really been able to imagine.
With no disrespect to the multi-code athletes that make it to the NFL after other sporting careers in Australia, having Williams come through (albeit rather quickly) the gridiron Queensland and Australia programs makes it all a bit more special. You really do have to feel happy for everyone involved.
By its nature American football is an expensive game to run, and when you’re working in a market with four established football codes and a traditionally sceptical public, it can make for pretty arid developmental grounds.
To have Williams front and centre for a week in every major Australian newspaper is publicity on a scale the local game could never hope to purchase, and gives every talented kid who’s sat down in front of ‘Madden’ something to reach for other than the X-Box controller.
On top of this the fact that Williams, on entering the NFL, is going to be on the gridiron itself for more than just fourth downs.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good punt (when that smug Tom Waterhouse bloke isn’t involved anyway), but having only seen Colin Scotts drunk on the Don Lane Super Bowl show, it would be nice to see a local mixing it in the trenches.
After all, it’s probably a bit much to hope fellow Aussie NFL draft candidate Brad Wing to decapitate an opposition’s punt returner Sav Rocca-style every weekend.
So can he do it? Can Big Willie part the red sea and lead the game into the promised land of mainstream Australia’s sporting subconscious?
Certainly Australian interest has been piqued in overseas leagues by countrymen such as Luc Longley, Harry Kewell and Dave Nilsson playing in the big time.
I think if drafted by an at least semi-competitive NFL side (word is the rising Indianapolis Colts are in the hunt) and successfully making the transition to the pros, Williams will have a few more of us getting up early on Monday mornings.
From here domestic participation and an increased presence of scouts on our shores should follow and by the end of Williams’ career things could look a whole lot differently down under, with Jesse clearing a path for the game to make a decent run.
Sure, carrying the future of a sport in a country is a pretty big burden for the young bloke to shoulder.
But hey, he’s a pretty big bloke.
Follow Chris on Twitter @Vic_Arious
Chris Chard is a sports humour writer commenting on the often absurd nature of professional sport. A rugby league fan boy with a good blend of youth and experience taking things one week at a time, Chris has written for The Roar, Rugby League Player Magazine, US Sports Downunder, the QRL and People. Tweet him @Vic_Arious