MOBILE, Ala. — Auburn linebacker Tre’ Williams looked back in his element Tuesday afternoon at the first practice of Senior Bowl week.
Williams said he finally felt healthy again after struggling with a shoulder injury for the second half of his senior year with the Tigers. The linebacker also was thrilled to be back in his hometown of Mobile, Ala., where he starred for St. Paul’s during his high school days.
“Man, this is great,” Williams said. “I’m so grateful to be here. It’s a blessing. I can’t wait to showcase my talents out at practice.”
Williams did just that Tuesday afternoon. He had the biggest highlight of the South team’s practice, when he delivered a massive hit on San Diego State running back Rashad Penny and forced a fumble.
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) January 23, 2018
The hit drew the attention of scouts and NFL draft analysts in attendance at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile.
Tre Williams isn’t afraid to hit. Just destroyed Rashaad Penny
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 23, 2018
Auburn LB Tre Williams laid one of the bigger licks I’ve seen in a Senior Bowl practice on SDSU RB Rashaad Penny. Knocked him back in the hole and knocked the ball out. Oof.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) January 23, 2018
Tre’ Williams LB #Auburn with the play of the day just now. Put a hit on Rashaad Penny in the backfield that you could feel up in the bleachers. Ouch. 👀
— RosterWatch (@RosterWatch) January 23, 2018
For Williams’ Auburn teammates and coaches, the play wasn’t a shocker at all.
“Yeah, that doesn’t surprise me,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said after practice. “He’s a physical guy, he’s a downhill guy. He plays with an attitude. It doesn’t surprise me.”
— Darius Slayton (@Young_Slay2) January 23, 2018
If you ever wondered why we say BUM! BUM! It’s a Auburn LB thing! https://t.co/zNS5FltGpe
— Coach T-Will (@T_WILL4REAL) January 23, 2018
— Devin Adams (@D_Adams16) January 23, 2018
— Kerryon Johnson (@AyeyoKEJO) January 23, 2018
Williams’ hit was impressive — and it was one he probably couldn’t have made earlier this month. He said he was playing at “55 to 60 percent” in the Peach Bowl, when the Tigers lost a close game with undefeated UCF in Atlanta.
But while Auburn cornerback and potential first-round draft selection Carlton Davis sat out the Peach Bowl, that wasn’t an option for Williams.
“I was pretty banged up… it is what it is,” Williams said. “I tried to get the W for Auburn. They did so much for me, so it’s the least I could do.”
After the loss New Year’s Day, Williams went right to work rehabbing his shoulder in Florida.
“I actually finally got some rest time,” Williams said. “I stopped practicing, I went down to IMG to train. They got me right — a lot of treatment and rehab. So they got me back together.”
Now that he’s back “full go,” Williams looks more like the linebacker he was for the majority of his Auburn career. Malzahn thinks Williams could turn some more heads this week in his hometown.
“He played probably the second half of the year beat up, and he wasn’t able to practice full-speed,” Malzahn said. “But he kept hanging in there and showed a lot of toughness. You could tell today he was feeling pretty good.”
Williams made the most of his first opportunity in front of all 32 NFL teams Tuesday. It was the ideal start for what he thinks will be a memorable week in Mobile.
“It’s a dream come true,” Williams said. “It’s all a blessing. I’m extremely grateful that I got the invitation to be here.”
— Coach Gus Malzahn (@CoachGusMalzahn) January 23, 2018