Former University of Memphis All-American DeAngelo Williams opens his fourth season as a pro this month. A year ago, Williams rushed for 1,515 yards and led the NFL with 20 touchdowns as his Carolina Panthers went 12-4 and reached the playoffs.
How do you follow up a breakout season like you had last year?
You need to talk to my offensive line. Fortunately for us, we have them all back, with a year under their belt. Four out of the five were playing new positions. And it was their first time playing an entire year together. Expect my all . . . that's what you can expect.
You haven't yet gained the national attention of Adrian Peterson or LaDainian Tomlinson. Do you like being a bit off the radar?
I like being off the radar. You don't have to deal with all the hoopla. You don't get criticized as much when you're off the radar. They critique your every movement, what you say, what kind of person you are. It's ridiculous, and repetitive. If I could work like this all the time, I would.
What was the biggest difference you found between playing in college and playing in the NFL?
The speed of the game. Knowing when the clock's running and when it isn't. It's extremely fast. There's so much stuff you have to remember when you go out of bounds. The fundamentals of the game's operations are something you have to take into consideration.
Most important feature of a great running back: legs or eyes?
They go hand-in-hand. I call it feet-eye coordination. If you can get your feet going in the direction you're looking, you can cut on a dime. That's one of the things I work on every offseason, to make sure I maintain this [coordination]. There are a lot of drills we work on that help you turn a corner, or show one speed and hitting another. It's a game of angles in the NFL. Everybody's fast.
What's the hardest hit you've taken in the NFL?
It was actually [my former teammate] Kris Jenkins, during a training camp. I tried to keep driving, and he didn't move at all. He was like 360 pounds, maybe 370. I was trying to impress, to show my strength. His body fell on me and it strained my oblique [abdominal muscle].
You've carried the ball more than 500 times in your career and fumbled exactly once. What's the secret?
We do a lot of ball-security drills. We go through every scenario out on the field. It doesn't matter how far or how long you run if you don't have the ball.
When you reflect on your days at the U of M, what stands out in your memories?
The fans at the Liberty Bowl. Listening to the band play "I'm So Glad." Normally, when I'm on the field, I tune everything out. But ever since the New Orleans Bowl in 2003, when I was on the sidelines [injured], when I hear that song, it takes me back to that moment.
Do you spread the word about your alma mater?
All the time! I don't care if we're 3-9 or 9-3, I'm always talking about the Tigers. We're always talking about how our college would have beaten their college when we played.
Tell us about DoubleTrouble3428.com. The collaboration with your fellow tailback, Jonathan Stewart.
It's the same web site, we just redefined it. Once you become a member, you get the chance to interact with us. We take the helmets off. We pretty much invite you into our homes. There's video, pictures of us in everyday life. It's just us being ourselves. We're going to give you the honest truth, and turn fans into family.