The Scouting Combine is still a month away, but former Alabama defensive tackle Jesse Williams is already staking his claim as the strongest man there. And the strongest man who has ever lifted at the Combine.
A native of Brisbane, Australia, Williams can max out at 600 pounds on the bench press, and he told News.com.au that he expects to break the Combine’s all-time record for repetitions of 225 pounds. But he added that the bench press isn’t his primary focus as he prepares for the Combine.
Williams was discovered by Jerry Dominguez, the defensive coordinator at Arizona Western junior college. Dominguez recruited Williams to Arizona Western after taking a trip to Australia to school students in the fundamentals of American football, then coached him there before he transferred to Alabama. Dominguez told the New York Times that Williams should be able to do 55 to 60 reps at 225 pounds.
The Combine’s all-time record is 51 reps by Justin Ernest of Eastern Kentucky in 1999. Others have claimed they could break Ernest’s record only to fall short, including David Molk of Michigan last year, who said he’d top the record but ended up with only (only?) 41 reps.
Of course, breaking the Combine bench press record says little about whether a player can make it in the NFL. It’s worth noting that Ernest wasn’t drafted and never played in a regular-season game (although he was briefly on the Saints’ roster). What Williams has going for him is that he was a starter at both end and tackle on Alabama’s defensive line, and that he’s athletic enough that the Crimson Tide occasionally put him in the backfield as a fullback in short-yardage situations. (Williams buried Manti Te’o to lead the way on a touchdown run in the national championship game.) NFL teams will also likely see Williams as a player who still has room to improve, having grown up playing rugby and basketball and not having a lot of experience with American football.
Ultimately, the 6-foot-4, 320-pound Williams looks like a first-round pick because of what he can do on the field, not in the weight room. But setting a record in the weight room would be a nice bonus.