"Two twenty-four," New York Jets player personnel director Dick Haley announced to the nearly 80 scouts and coaches who had crowded into the UCSD fitness center for the indoor portion of Williams's long-awaited, predraft workout.
After getting off the scale, Williams slid onto a nearby weight bench for the last part of his workout - the 225-pound bench press. "Keep banging, baby. Keep banging," exhorted Philadelphia's Leland Hardy, Williams's agent, as his client grunted through an impressive, 22-repetition performance.
Earlier, out on the UCSD track, Williams, with his trademark dreadlocks tied back into pigtails, ran three 40-yard dashes for the scouts. Ran a slow 4.67 into the wind on his first try. Then changed directions and notched a wind-aided 4.48 and 4.46.
"I'm tremendously enthused," said Hardy, looking dapper in a $1,000 suit and a University of Texas baseball hat. "To run as fast as he did for a man of his bulk and size is impressive. This [workout] just validates that this guy is the guy. You're looking at a Jerome Bettis-sized individual with Deion Sanders speed."
We won't know for another 11 days what, if any, impact yesterday's workout had on Williams's draft stock. Did he impress the Cleveland Browns enough to convince them to take him rather than quarterbacks Tim Couch or Akili Smith with the first pick? Did he change the Eagles' minds about taking a quarterback with the second pick? Did he convince the Indianapolis Colts to grab him with the fourth pick if he's still on the board, and ditch Marshall Faulk?
"I thought he helped himself," said Browns football operations director Dwight Clark. "He did a great job. His speed was fine. He caught the ball well. He took the weight off. He's a great player and could help us a lot. But so would the two quarterbacks."
Williams and Hardy will embark on a three-day, six-city, predraft tour today. They'll visit St. Louis and New Orleans today, Washington and Philadelphia tomorrow, and Cleveland and Indianapolis on Friday. Friday is the final day that teams can bring draft prospects in for visits.
More than 20 clubs sent representatives to the workout. The Browns had four, including Clark and head coach Chris Palmer. The Eagles had three - football operations director Tom Modrak, coach Andy Reid and college scouting director John Goeller. The Cincinnati Bengals, who own the third selection, were the only team with a top-12 pick that didn't make the trip.
"It solidified some things," Modrak said. "You're always adding to what you have. This is a chance to add some more. See him run and catch the ball. He ran well."
Said Reid: "The key is he's dropped the weight. That's always a concern when a guy is up 20 pounds from his playing weight."
The presence of both Reid and Modrak indicates that the Eagles, while still leaning toward taking one of the top quarterbacks, have not totally discounted the possibility of selecting Williams if the Browns don't.
"We're in a nice situation," Modrak said. "We're still wide open on what we're going to do."
Said Reid: "You've got to sit back and analyze it all. Every player that's out there. That's the approach we've taken. We want to take everything in, make sure we do this with a clear head. Cover every base. That's what we're doing."
Not everyone was impressed with Williams's workout. Rams player personnel assistant Lynn Stiles, whose team has the sixth overall pick, expected a better effort.
"He didn't compete, didn't push himself as hard as I thought he would," Stiles said. "I thought he'd run faster, considering the [favorable wind] conditions. I had him running a 4.5 with the wind, 4.65 against the wind. On a [fast] track like this one, in these conditions, I would've expected faster. If he was a legitimate 4.5, he should've been able to run in the low 4.4s."
Williams was just relieved to get the workout behind him.
"I did OK," he said. "I'm happy it's over with. It's all part of the game. It's something you have to do. Everyone knows the real test is on the football field. This just gives them backup info."
On the field, Williams was without peer. Rushed for 2,124 yards last season and finished his college career as the NCAA's all-time leading Division I rusher.
"This is still football, the last time I checked," said New Orleans Saints president Bill Kuharich. "All this [workout] stuff is nice. But you're going to evaluate him on what he's done the last four years at Texas. You're going to evaluate him on his running, vision, hands, blocking. This [workout] is part of the process. But it's not going to change anything."
The Saints, who own the 12th overall pick, are doing everything they can to trade up and get Williams. Last month at the league meetings in Phoenix, coach Mike Ditka offered all of the Saints' '99 draft picks, as well as future considerations, to any club that would give them a shot at Williams.
"We haven't had any official contact with clubs yet," Kuharich said. "We haven't made any offer other than Mike's statement. But beginning Sunday, we'll start calling teams and gauge the level of interest. Nothing's going to happen until draft day, though. We wouldn't make a deal unless we're guaranteed of getting Ricky."
Kuharich isn't overly optimistic. He still thinks the Browns will take Williams.
"I'm not convinced they're going to take a quarterback," he said. "There are people inside their organization who want Ricky Williams. And it makes sense for them.
"They're in a division where the weather is a definite factor. Especially when you get to November and December. Look at all the good running backs in that [AFC Central] division: Eddie George [Tennessee], Bettis [Pittsburgh], Fred Taylor [Jacksonville], Corey Dillon [Cincinnati]."
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