Letters from Camp: Sly Slims Down
You might have heard that senior defensive tackle Sylvester Williams has lost some weight. He’s down to 300 pounds, thirty less than he weighed last season and not much more than he weighed when he played power forward on his high school basketball team.
The story of how that happened is pretty standard - more grilled chicken, no fried foods, extra cardio, etc. But that’s just about the only part of Williams’ backstory that is remotely conventional.
Williams didn’t take up football until his senior year of high school, and after he graduated he got a job manufacturing parts for 18-wheelers “from scratch”, as he put it. But his unfulfilled football potential haunted him. He knew he had a lot of ground to make up when he started junior college in 2009. And when he recommitted himself to the game, Williams vowed that he never take any half measures.
“Everything that I do in life, I want to leave my mark. So I told myself that I was going to train and watch as much film as I needed to do to try to catch myself up with everybody else,” Williams said. “I’ve watched just about every piece of film they’ve got in the system here, just to try to see stuff that other people did that helped them succeed and also that helped them fail.”
It’s Williams’ boundless enthusiasm that made him such an admirer of new head coach Larry Fedora, who is a living and breathing advertisement for Red Bull. “I’ve never seen a day since I’ve met Coach Fedora where he’s having a bad day. So even if he is having a bad day ... you would never be able to tell that he doesn’t because every time you see him, he’s high energy, jumping up and down. It’s crazy,” Williams said.
At UNC’s media day, Fedora dismissed the rumors (spread by his players) that he benched 350 pounds. But Williams says the rumors are true. “(Fedora) told me that he used to do 350 (pound) bench press once every year, which is a lot of weight for a man of his size. He says next year he’s going to do it. So even though I may not be there, I’m looking forward to hearing about how that went,” Williams said with a grin.
By the time Fedora attempts it, Williams will likely be with a professional team going through a much different type of training camp. And even in the NFL, defensive tackles often struggle with their weight. Williams knows that he could still get by on his natural athleticism carrying a few extra pounds, but he doesn’t want to take the path of least resistance by drinking that soda or eating a deep-fried treat.
“My weight does go up and down but this year, I plan on keeping it under control,” Williams said. “I’m faster, quicker and I can breathe better. I’m in better condition. So at the end of the day, I’m a happy man and ready to play football.”