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Quinnen Williams cedes big man on campus title to Bill Belichick at Alabama’s Pro Day

Alabama’s Pro Day draws general managers from around the league

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, sporting an Alabama windbreaker, talks with Alabama coach Nick Saban at the Alabama NFL Pro Day Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, sporting an Alabama windbreaker, talks with Alabama coach Nick Saban at the Alabama NFL Pro Day Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Quinnen Williams is used to being the big man on campus. On Tuesday, however, the large defensive tackle and top NFL Draft prospect had to share that honor with Bill Belichick.

In fact, Williams sounded like a man ready to cede the title — at least for one day.

“I talked to Coach Belichick at practice [Monday], but I didn’t have a chance to see him today,’’ said Williams, shaking his head with a bit of an awestruck smile. “It’s crazy, so I’m going to be like, ‘I’m a fan.’ I’m like a rookie almost when I see Belichick. I’m going to have to get a picture with him.’’

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The Patriots coach was on hand at the Hank Crisp indoor facility watching 20 prospective NFLers go through the paces at Alabama’s Pro Day. Williams was mainly a spectator on this day, as he is recovering from a previously undisclosed right pinkie injury he suffered against Auburn in the Iron Bowl. Williams didn’t miss any time because of the ailment, preferring to play through in the SEC title game, the national semifinal win over Oklahoma, and the championship game loss to Clemson.

The 6-foot-3-inch, 303-pounder even went through the Combine process before addressing the finger.

“It got caught inside of a helmet, and once I tried to make a move, it went a different way,’’ Williams said matter-of-factly as listeners cringed at the details. “And I just played with it throughout the season, and it messed up some ligaments inside it. There were a lot of things going on while training that messed up things that I can do with my hands and stuff.’’

Rather than risk a setback, Williams, projected as a top-10 pick, decided to rest on his Combine performance, where he ran a 4.83 in the 40-yard dash. According to NFL.com, that was the third-fastest time by a player weighing 300-plus pounds.

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“There’s just different stuff going on with my finger that I didn’t want to reinjure or mess with,’’ said Williams, who revealed his training times in the 40 were more like 4.78 or 4.79. “So, I really stood on my Combine performance and feel like I did a great job at the Combine to show the coaches and show the scouts and show the world that what I did on film calibrates into the person I am, not just a one breakout season player.’’

Williams acknowledged he wasn’t on most NFL teams’ radar last year and remembers thinking just that as he watched teammates compete at the 2018 Pro Day.

“Even seven months ago [people didn’t know who I was],’’ he said.

Williams, who led the Tide with 18.5 tackles for loss last season, credited coach Nick Saban, strength coach Scott Cochran, and the entire staff for sticking with him.

“Quinnen was always very athletic and had really good quickness,’’ Saban said. “I think he was sometimes a little undersized, and maybe that limited his role, but as he got bigger and stronger with that quickness, he became a dominant player. He always played with a great attitude, lots of tenacity, really, really hard worker, always tried to do everything right and was a smart player, so the combination of those things helped him rise very quickly.’’

Coach talk

Belichick wore a crimson Alabama sweatshirt during the workouts. That made Saban smile, even though the Tide coach said that he didn’t gift it to the Patriots coach, but that he was “glad he got it.’’

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The two spent a good chunk of time chatting while watching the players. Saban said the conversations ran the gamut.

“Kind of everything,’’ he said. “We’re personal friends, so we talk about kids and grandkids. And then we talk about personnel because they’re interested in guys that they bring to their team. And then we’re both kind of still very involved in the football part of what’s going on, so we’ll talk quite a bit about X’s and O’s. It’s a wide variety of things.’’

Including lots of memories.

“And then there’s a little storytelling that goes with it, too, because we go back a long ways, and we had lots of kind of experiences that we both kind of learned from.’’

This and that

Among other notable NFL officials on hand were Bengals coach Zac Taylor, Lions general manager Bob Quinn, Titans GM Jon Robinson, 49ers GM John Lynch, Raiders GM Mike Mayock, Steelers GM Kevin Colbert, and Saints GM Mickey Loomis . . . It’s easy to see why Cochran is such a popular figure in this area and with his players. His energy is boundless, and his words of encouragement are endless during drills. The man will never need a megaphone . . . Josh Jacobs, who rushed for 1,491 yards and added 571 receiving yards in 40 games at Alabama, had a solid day. The downhill bruiser ran a 4.6 in the 40-yard dash, did 18 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press, and sailed 9 feet 4 inches in the broad jump.

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Jim McBride can be reached at james.mcbride@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.