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Auburn standout Tre' Williams set to be 'totally different player'

Auburn linebacker Tre' Williams (30) stops Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon (25) during the second half of the Sugar Bowl Monday, Jan. 2, 2017, at the Superdome in New Orleans, La. (Julie Bennett/jbennett@al.com)
Auburn linebacker Tre' Williams (30) stops Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon (25) during the second half of the Sugar Bowl Monday, Jan. 2, 2017, at the Superdome in New Orleans, La. (Julie Bennett/jbennett@al.com)(Julie Bennett)

Before Tre' Williams was a five-star recruit or one of the top linebackers in the SEC, he was a 4-year old who didn't like tackling or being tackled.

Williams' mother, Charleste McMillian, wasn't able to attend his first football practice because of work, so she asked him about it upon getting home.

Williams, who was jumping on a bed, responded: Mama, I'm just going to be the water boy.

"I said, 'Oh, no you're not. That's not gonna happen,'" his mom recalled while laughing. "I told him, 'Tomorrow, I'm going to go out there and you're going to have to hit somebody.' And he just said, 'Yes, ma'am.'"

Williams began to shine in football at 5. At 12, he hit an opposing player so hard that his uncle heard the loud pop while talking to McMillian on the phone. Now, the Mobile native is one of the leaders for what's likely to be one of the top defenses in the SEC, seemingly ready to take another step forward for Auburn after ranking second on the Tigers in tackles as a junior last season.

Williams has dropped weight, has continuity at defensive coordinator for the first time since arriving at Auburn in 2014 and is still the same physical, aggressive presence that he's been since about 5 years old.

"I really think you're going to see him flourish big time this year," said Steve Mask, Williams' high school coach. "I think you're going to see a totally different player this fall. I really do."


Meet Auburn football's behind the scenes star

Meet Auburn football's behind the scenes star

"He's a guy that's very sharp, a relentless worker and very creative. I think he's a superstar. Whatever his goals are, whether it's to be at a top-10 college football program or a general manager in the NFL, wherever Patrick sets his sights, I have full confidence he's going to reach his goals. He's that special of a guy."


Williams and Mask have spoken a lot about the continuity at defensive coordinator.

After having a different defensive coordinator each of his first three seasons at Auburn, Williams has told Mask how much more natural and comfortable he feels entering Year 2 under Kevin Steele.

Mask also expects Williams to benefit from the weight loss.

The 6-foot-2 Williams arrived at Auburn weighing 220 pounds. He played last season at 240. Now, he's back down to 225 pounds.

"He may have gotten a little too big, and now he's down to a more natural weight," Mask said. "He's never been overweight. But with the schemes that they're doing and the things that they ask him to do, he needed to be a lighter and a little faster. I think he's carrying his weight a whole lot better, which makes him quicker and makes him faster. And in this league, it's all about speed. And I think from a speed aspect, you'll see things different out of him."


Promising Auburn DB back healthy, still very fast

Promising Auburn DB back healthy, still very fast

"A lot of people don't know about him yet. But, in my opinion, I know he'll be one of the best DBs in the nation."


Williams has grown each year at Auburn.

Year 1 was challenging. Williams made just 16 tackles while serving primarily as a backup after being ranked as the No. 2 inside linebacker and No. 29 overall prospect in the 2014 recruiting class, according to the 247Sports Composite Rankings. Williams then took a step forward as a sophomore, making 51 tackles in 2015 before posting 67 last year as a junior while helping Auburn rank seventh nationally in scoring defense.

Tigers linebackers coach Travis Williams said he believes Williams was one of the top linebackers in the SEC the second half of last season despite playing through an ankle injury.

Now, Williams' linebackers coach believes he "should be able to take his game to another level" as a senior.

Williams had a pick-six during Auburn's second spring scrimmage and was recently one of six SEC players named to the watch list for the Lott IMPACT Trophy, which is presented annually to the defensive player who best exemplifies the combination of integrity, maturity, performance, academics, community and tenacity.

"He's a true professional and he's a guy who works hard," Travis Williams said. "He had a great spring, and I think he's setting himself up for a big fall."


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"We used to sit in our defensive meeting room at Baylor and be like 'OK, we've got one right here. We've got something special at quarterback.' You knew he was going to a special-type player, so him being successful at Auburn doesn't surprise me at all."


During conversations with his mother, Williams often talks about how focused he is and how determined he is to be a good leader and to have a big senior season.

Asked what people should expect of Williams' senior year, his mom responded, "Beast mode."

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