Ian Williams has shrugged off setbacks in the past to find success. Now he’s ready to do it again.
Williams was a standout defensive lineman at Notre Dame, yet went undrafted. He was signed by the 49ers, buried on the depth chart and then worked his way up to earn the starting nose tackle job last summer.
“It hurt,” Williams told a reporter last year of being snubbed in the draft. “But looking back at it, it was probably the best situation that could have ever happened. I was a young kid, expecting this, expecting that. It kind of put me back to my place, and coming here and getting back to work really propelled me to where I am now.
“I lost sight of that goal I set. Drastic things usually get you back on track.”
But just two games into what many predicted would be a starring season for the former Fighting Irish star, Williams suffered a season-ending ankle injury during a game against the Seahawks.
Suddenly Williams – whose work had been called “amazing” by 49ers inside linebacker Patrick Willis – was on the sidelines watching veteran Glenn Dorsey step into his role and excel.
“It was hard,” Williams told Taylor Price of the team’s website. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it or anything like that. Is was hard not being able to contribute.”
But Williams now is healthy again and ready to compete with Dorsey for the job that was briefly his. With the 49ers now in organized team activities (OTAs) – with minicamp and training camp ahead in July – Williams will again get his chance to prove he deserves the starting job. And some believe he can win it again. In a recent Bleacher Report story about five San Francisco players poised for breakout seasons in 2014, Williams was listed at No. 2, joining tight end Vance McDonald, running back LaMichael James, rookie defensive back Jimmie Ward and second-year defensive lineman Tank Carradine.
Williams won’t be rooting against Dorsey. He says he’ll simply focus on working hard and playing the best he can.
“I wish the best for the next man, always,” he said. “I want a ring. Forget everything else, I just want a ring. If I can’t do it, and he (Dorsey) can, it is what it is. I just want a ring. That’s all I want. That’s just how it is in our D-line room. We’re just tight like that. We all want to get a ring. I know how much Justin Smith and Ray McDonald have put into this.”