Williams considered sure 1st-round draft pick

Updated: January 15, 2005, 10:42 PM ET
By Chris Mortensen | ESPN Insider

If the Senior Bowl was good enough for LaDainian Tomlinson, it's good enough for Cadillac Williams.

Williams, a record-setting running back from Auburn, confirmed to ESPN.com Saturday night that he has accepted an invitation to play in the prestigious Senior Bowl (ESPN, 4 p.m. ET) on Jan. 29 in Mobile, Ala.

"I'm familiar with what LaDainian Tomlinson did and that definitely crossed my mind," said Williams. "I just feel like I couldn't pass up this opportunity."

That Williams sees the Senior Bowl as an opportunity instead of a gamble speaks volumes of his competitive nature. He is considered a sure first-round pick but could be the second or third back chosen behind Texas' Cedric Benson and Auburn teammate Ronnie Brown. He said he wants to prove he is deserving of being the first rusher off the board in the April 23 draft.

"I don't even want to think about injury or failure," said Williams. "For me to compete against the best players in the nation and to be coached by NFL coaches is something I really can't pass up. It's a chance to show myself."

Tomlinson was in a similar position in the 2001 draft. He was rated as a first-rounder but scouts were uncertain whether he was a better prospect than Ole Miss' Deuce McAllister. Both backs were invited to play in the Senior Bowl. Tomlinson played in the game, his stock soared and the Chargers picked him fifth overall. McAllister passed up the opportunity and was the 23rd pick by the Saints. The difference meant millions of dollars in favor of Tomlinson. Benson and Brown will not be playing in the Senior Bowl.

Williams will play for the South team, which will be coached by Jon Gruden and his staff from Tampa Bay.

"Gruden's excited and we're excited about Cadillac," Senior Bowl president Steve Hale said. "Obviously, this shows he's a great competitor who has the desire to be the best."

Williams gained 3,811 yards in his career at Auburn. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry during his career and scored 45 touchdowns.

"Honestly, I had to present the pros and cons of playing in the Senior Bowl to Cadillac but he wants the NFL to see what's inside his heart," said Ben Dogra, the agent who represents Williams. "He isn't content with just being a first-rounder. He wants to be the best and believes playing in this game really is a great opportunity."

ESPN's Chris Mortensen is a regular contributor to Insider.

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