It’s been a short and sweet two months since Quinnen Williams was called onto the NFL Draft stage in Nashville where he first became a New York Jet. And even though his stretch in the green and white has been brief so far, the 21-year-old defensive lineman is adjusting quickly to his new role thanks to several of his teammates.
"It’s been amazing. Really the thing that got me well-adjusted was hanging out with the vets,” Williams said. “Learning from guys like Steve McLendon, who taught me a lot of stuff on and off the field and Leo, who taught me a lot of stuff on and off the field. But the main thing was learning football: how to make a routine, how to take care of your body, how to get treatment. It’s been very easy just having a great group of older guys around me to help me out.”
Williams, the 6’3”, 303-pound rookie who had only one year of starting experience at Alabama, had to be patient throughout the spring. Limited early with a calf injury, he was a full participant in the final week of OTAs and earned some first-team reps.
“Every time I’m on the sideline and I watch the 1’s go, I take mental reps and know the play and say the play to myself,” he said. “I find out what Steve is doing when he comes off the field and immediately – boom – why did you do this? What did you do that for? So then I know that when my time comes I can do the same exact thing and I cannot be a drop off.”
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McLendon is entering his tenth year in the league and fourth with the Jets. He is just one of two players on the young roster over the age of 30, making his experience invaluable to the development of a young defensive lineman.
“He has been asking me a lot and he’s been right there in my pocket,” said the 33-year-old McLendon of Williams. “He wants to be great. And I told him, ‘You’re going to be great man.’ One thing I can see is him coming in as a young guy and studying and watching everything that I do. And when I leave this business, I can see that it will be okay for this young man to step in and help this team, and he will be tremendous for this team.”
Williams came out of the 2019 Draft widely regarded as one of the best defensive players in his class. After being picked by the Jets third overall in the first round, there are high expectations for him to excel under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Along with learning from some of the most experienced players on the team, the Alabama product wants to understand all the roles up front because he prides himself on his versatility.
“Whatever Gregg wants me to do, I’m going to do it. I can play all positions, and he knows I can play all positions. And he knows I can learn all positions,” Williams said. “And just going through every day with these guys: Leo plays right end, Steve plays nose guard, and you’ve got Henry Anderson who plays left end. So knowing those three great guys, three great veterans, and three great leaders, I just pick their brain about every position to make it more easy for me to learn all three positions.”