Brandon Williams may be 3,621 miles from home, but the surroundings at St Mary’s University in Twickenham have a familiar feel for the Baltimore Ravens star.
At a campus that has helped to produce elite athletes such as Sir Mo Farah, another is thinking back to his younger years after yet another NFL combine experience.
Williams is a lot more relaxed than after his first taste back in 2013. Not that he is prepared to go through the real thing again.
Brandon Williams was at St Mary’s University ahead of the NFL international series
BRANDON WILLIAMS’S NFL COMBINE SCORES
Pre-draft combine results from 2013:
40-yard Dash: 5.37secs
Three-cone Drill: 8.09secs
Vertical Jump: 0.75cm
Bench Press (102kg): 39 reps
‘It was a gift and a curse at the same time,’ said Williams, speaking after taking part in an NFL Combine training session to mark the launch of EA SPORTS Madden NFL 18.
‘It was a great experience but at the same time when you’re there it’s exhausting.
‘It’s mentally draining, it’s physically draining, it’s really one of the worst and best things you’ll ever do in your life but you’re so glad it’s over when it’s over.’
Coming from Missourri Southern State University, a small NCAA Division II school, Williams was invited to endure four days of health checks, 4am wake-up calls and mind-boggling IQ tests along with 330 other hopefuls to see if they had what it takes to make it in the NFL.
The physical tests, replicated by the Sports Science Agency at St Mary’s, were just the final hurdle in a gruelling schedule, but now a defensive tackle at the top of the sport he believes in the process more than ever.
‘You’ve got to be mentally tough because it could break you down if you’re not ready for it. That taught me a lot about my mental toughness,’ said Williams.
The defensive tackle was taking part in a combine to help promote the launch of Madden 18
‘It’s good because it weeds out the weak and it keeps the strong and it ensures a nice quality of players keeps coming through every year.
‘It’s a necessary evil.’
The process appears to be working, at least for the Ravens. John Harbaugh has put together a side that looks capable of launching a Super Bowl push for the first time since their 2012 season triumph.
The AFC North side boast the No 1 defence in pre-season so far and with Joe Flacco still leading the attack from quarterback despite his back issues, there is always quality on offence too.
They are tipped for big things this campaign and seeing what he has so far, Williams finds it hard to disagree.
Williams is part of a Ravens defence that has ranked No 1 throughout pre-season
The 28-year-old says the Ravens have recruited smartly and could be on to something special
‘I feel this season is going to be one of the best seasons we’ve had,’ the 28-year-old revealed.
‘I feel like our coaches and owner and our scouts have a done a great job of getting the players the Ravens need, whether it’s filling spots or getting better players or whatever.
‘They’ve done a great job just to build this team to its greatest potential, whether its giving Joe Flacco more weapons or keeping our defence more solid, and just adding a few pieces to beef it up a little it.
‘They’re giving the team what we need to be successful. During the last OTA’s (Organised Team Activities) and mini camp I’ve felt our team looked so great. We’re gelling, we’re becoming family.
‘We’re going to get to know each other a little better at training camp. Then we’ll get to see if the new recruits and the rookies can take it. If they can bring what they did in college to the table when they’re actually here.
Joe Flacco will lead the charge from quarterback for the AFC North side despite back troubles
EA SPORTS Madden NFL 18 is available to by For XBox One and PS4 from Friday August 25
‘We need players who can come in and help the team straight away and be a man about it and be professional.’
Any journey to Super Bowl LII in Minnesota for Williams and the Ravens will be forced to take a detour via London after they were confirmed as part of the NFL International Series.
Harbaugh will see his side take on the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley on September 24, and Williams admits he cannot wait to play in front of a sell-out crowd in the capital.
But he admits he will be taking some special precautions on the long-haul flight to make sure he’s game ready.
‘I’ve seen all the movies an TV when you get the rowdy London fans at rugby or soccer, they’re all crazy. That’s what I expect at NFL in London,’ he said.
‘I want those same people to come out and support the Ravens and just give us that UK love.
I have talked with some of the players that went there [London] and they just say the biggest thing is the flight.
‘So I’m preparing for that, I’ve got a special blanket, a little pillow, got my little sleeping mask so I can get a good night’s sleep on the plane and so I can feel as refreshed as I possibly can to go out and do my job.’
The Ravens will face the Jacksonville Jaguars in London at Wembley on September 24
Brandon Williams, was speaking after being put through his paces in an NFL Combine training session to mark the launch of EA SPORTS Madden NFL 18 – available on Xbox One and PS4 from 25.8.17 and Madden Mobile NOW. Brandon Williams will be turning out for the Baltimore Ravens against the Jacksonville Jaguars on 24th September 2017 at Wembley as part of the 2017 London Games which will be shown live as part of the BBC’s season-long NFL coverage.