MIND GAME: Tourek Williams Elevated His Play With a Sharp Mental Approach
8/15/2012 4:00:00 PM

By Pete Pelegrin

There is no denying FIU defensive end Tourek Williams’s motor and explosiveness. It’s just that Williams appears to have taken it to another level this summer.

At a recent practice during the Panthers’ red zone drills, an FIU running back found a hole by the sideline and appeared headed for a touchdown when sprinting from across the other side of the field charged Williams, who knocked the running back out of bounds at the 2 and prevented the score.

As impressive and physical as the defensive play was, Williams thought it was more of a mental accomplishment.

“It’s just a want-to thing,” said Williams, smiling when asked about the play. “It doesn’t matter what you run in the 40 or how big you are. Mentally, if you want to make it happen, you can do anything.”

Williams has been honing the mental side of football since he arrived at FIU. A voracious student of practice and game film, Williams also credits the experience of working with three different defensive coordinators and two different defensive line coaches at FIU. Through his first three years and now heading into his senior season, Williams has seen a lot of defensive football.

“Between those three different defensive coordinators, we went over a lot of different plays and schemes,” Williams said. “Now football just comes a little bit easier since I’ve had three different coaches to teach me three different ways and now I can pretty much learn any way.”

Williams is a two-time All-Sun Belt Conference selection and is a preseason All-Sun Belt pick by several publications. Lindy’s College Football Magazine named him the No. 1 NFL talent in the Sun Belt Conference. Williams is also on the College Football Performance Awards Defense Watch List heading into the season.

Still, Williams had to earn all the accolades coming out of Miami Norland High where he was a callow talent. At Norland, Williams played offensive tackle and tight end before switching to defensive end midway through his senior season.

Having played less than half a dozen games on the defensive line, Williams arrived at FIU weighing 225 pounds. Yet, FIU Head Coach Mario Cristobal knew he had a special freshman.

"You saw the twitch, the explosiveness," Cristobal said. "You saw a motor. When you throw in a tape of recruiting and you are looking at linemen, you certainly want a guy that can change the line of scrimmage. You want a guy with a motor. He had that, but you saw a very raw prospect."

Since then through countless hours of work on and off the field, including gaining 40 pounds from his freshman season to present day, Williams has become one of the premier defensive ends in the nation.

"He’s a very intelligent guy," Cristobal said. "He picks up concepts real well. His carryover from the meeting room to drill work to actual live play is real special. The motor that he’s playing with at 265 pounds, I think he just separates himself from all the players around the country. His technique now, the use of his hands has taken another step and when you are that long and that explosive and you add that type of technique that makes you really different."

In his final season at FIU, Williams has assumed more of a leadership role. In the off-season, along with senior linebacker Winston Fraser and senior safety Johnathan Cyprien, Williams led the players-only workouts and not surprising the focus was on the cerebral part of the game.

"We worked on our mental toughness because playing as a defense together everybody has to be in tuned mentally," Williams said. "The physical part of it comes after that. You just have to focus on the mental side and make sure everybody knows what they are doing."

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