DALLAS — Oklahoma right tackle Daryl Williams stopped in front of his booth at Big 12 media days on Tuesday.
The former Lake Dallas standout stood next to a tall sign bearing his name and a photo of the offensive lineman. Williams stood tall alongside the two-dimensional version of himself for a photo and was chided by his quarterback for not smiling wide enough.
Entering his senior season, Williams has every reason to grin.
Williams was named to the preseason All-Big 12 team following a year when he started all 13 games for the Sooners. Williams also is on the watch list for the Outland Trophy, given to the nation’s top interior lineman.
The Sooners will look to Williams to become a leader on the line and throughout the locker room as a fifth-year senior.
“Daryl truly has been remarkable as he stepped forward in the winter, spring and summer,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “He’s been one of the best leaders I’ve been around in 16 years. He’s always been a bright, great worker, great teammate, but now he’s taken ownership of being a leader.”
Five years ago, Williams never thought he’d be in front of a bevy of media members at the Omni Dallas Hotel.
Williams had no idea about the cameras, recorders and grandeur of media day when he was a senior at Lake Dallas in 2009, protecting future Missouri quarterback James Franklin.
Back then, college coaches shuffled in and out of Lake Dallas coach Michael Young’s office, saying Williams was not going to be strong enough to be an offensive lineman for a big-time program.
Those doubts fueled Williams, who did not allow a sack during his senior season.
“He was a dominant player,” Young said. “He was a big part of our success. He could handle anybody that played up front against him.
Williams is listed at 6-6 and 329 pounds in the Oklahoma media guide, which also says Williams has started in 24 of the 32 games he’s played with the Sooners.
“I really thought it wouldn’t be hard to put on that weight because I love to eat,” Williams said with a few laughs — something he did often as he talked Tuesday.
Oklahoma senior defensive tackle Chuka Ndulue has been with Williams since the two started out on the scout team. Ndulue, who was a few booths down from Williams, recalled a time when they were working out early in their careers and were supposed to lift 275 pounds off the ground, quickly curl the bar to their chins, pause and set the bar back on the floor.
“I couldn’t get it,” Ndulue said. “He couldn’t get it, so we had to go the side and keep trying. I promise you we had about 150 reps. Three [workout] groups came, and we were still there.”
The coaches finally left, turned the lights off, and Williams and Ndulue figured it was time to leave the weight room.
Ndulue said the two have sharpened each other’s skills over the years, creating a threat on both sides of the football.
“I believe in my soul that Daryl is the best right tackle in the nation,” Ndulue said. “Going against him in practice every day makes me better as a player, because if I can hold my own against him I can hold my own against anyone in the country.”
Williams will be spending the season protecting OU sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight, who was named the most valuable player of the Sugar Bowl following the Sooners’ victory over Alabama.
Knight echoed what his head coach said regarding Williams’ leadership. The former San Antonio Reagan standout said Williams flourished in a leadership role this past spring by being vocal around the team and leading by example.
Knight said he couldn’t ask for a better guy to be protecting his right side.
“He was watching extra film every single day, on top of what we already had to do,” Knight said. “He was coming out early for practice, staying late for practice, really doing all the little things right. And it paid off for him.”
Williams may have earned preseason accolades in one of the toughest conferences in the Football Bowl Subdivision, but there are things he still wants to attain: A national championship. Making the All-Big 12 first team. The Outland Trophy. Being a first-round NFL draft pick.
So it is only fitting that the Lake Dallas alum wrapped up his final summer workout just before he joined Stoops, Knight, Ndulue and others at Big 12 media days.
“It still hasn’t hit me yet,” Williams said of the start of his final season in Norman. “I just finished my last summer workout today and it doesn’t feel that way. But it’s great. I’m just ready for the season to start.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.