FAYETTEVILLE — Senior running back David Williams one season with the Arkansas Razorbacks sufficed to get him a drafted shot into the National Football League.
A Philadelphia native and graduate transfer from the University of South Carolina, Williams was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the seventh round of the NFL draft.
Also picked in the same round was Maumelle product Kendall Donnerson, who played at Southeast Missouri. Donnerson was drafted by the Green Bay Packers.
Though the Razorbacks only went 4-8 in 2017, Williams, 6-1, 230, stood out as their leading rusher 656 yards and 8 touchdowns on 117 carries at 5.6 yards per carry, and also was Arkansas leading receiver out of the backfield and seventh on the team catching 10 passes for 171 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Williams joins senior center Frank Ragnow, drafted in Thursday’s first round by the Detroit Lions as the 20th pick in the entire draft, as Razorbacks selected in the 3-day NFL draft.
Ragnow, spent last week at his family’s home in Victoria, Minn., was quoted as “pretty surprised” about the Lions drafting him after talking to various NFL teams at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis and Arkansas’ Pro Day on March 26 in Fayetteville.
“They actually mentioned that on the phone that they really tried to keep it under the radar,” Ragnow said. “They were interested in me and I was very surprised, but I’m so, so, so excited to be a Detroit Lion. It’s hard to put into words. I just went 20th overall in the NFL Draft. You know, I’m just a kid living his dream and I’m just very excited.”
Ragnow has starred at both center and guard during his 2014-2017 Razorbacks career under former Coach Bret Bielema but said he wasn’t told of a specific position.
“Nope, they just said that they are impressed that I can play multiple positions and they’re just excited to have me,” Ragnow said.
Ragnow, 6-5, 312, graded highly throughout his Arkansas career and never was charged with giving up a sack even as the 2017 Hogs floundered, 4-8 with Ragnow missing the final five games with an ankle injury since surgically repaired and proven fit when he ran a personal record 4.98 40-yard dash on Arkansas’ Pro Day.
“I’m proud, you know,” Ragnow said when asked about not giving up a sack. “But it’s really not about me. It’s a five-person unit.”
Was he surprised, considering the injury, to be a first-round choice?
“To be honest, no,” Ragnow said. “I believe in my abilities and I knew that if I could just prove that my ankle was back to being healthy, I think the film didn’t lie. I’m just so excited that I’ve gotten to this point and here is where I am.”
After Ragnow was drafted, Lions Coach Mike Patricia said, “We got a guy that’s smart (Ragnow was All-SEC Academic honor roll). He’s a tough football player that can help us run the ball and help us protect our quarterback, and someone that can play a couple different positions inside, so we’re excited. ”This is a guy that has great traits, great character, hard worker, everything that we’re about. Blue-collar type of guy that we know is just going to make us tougher up front.”
Asked about Patricia’s comments, Ragnow replied, “We’ll see if I can translate that to the next level. I’m excited to get to work and make that happen.”
Ironically, Ragnow if he’s the center would be replacing former Razorbacks All-American Travis Swanson, a Lion from 2014-2017 recently signed as a free agent by the New York Jets.
Ragnow said Swanson has “mentored” him during the offseason occasions that Swanson came back to work out in Fayetteville and texted congratulations to him.
Quinn, calling Ragnow, “a productive, tough football player and hard worker with versatility,” was asked when he dialed in on Ragnow as a first-round draft choice.
“I’m not sure when I actually dialed in,” Quinn said. “I think the first time I watched him play on tape I kind of thought, ‘Wow, this guy’s a really good player!’ Going back the last couple weeks as we fine-tuned the board and kind of see who was there and who might be available, it was pretty clear that he would probably be there. We thought it was going to be close. I think we got some word from a few teams after us that they were interested in him as well, so I think the time was right to pick him.”
Did any of Ragnow’s Razorbacks games particularly stand out to him?
“This year, I mean, he got hurt about midway through the season with the ankle, so Texas A&M this year,” Quinn said. “(Against) Alabama he played guard. We went back and watched him as a sophomore in 2015 when he was a really young guy playing against a couple guys, one guy we have on our team. So, you pick a game, I don’t think it really matters which one you watch. It was pretty consistent.”
Since Ragnow and Lions returnee Graham Glasgow both are considered at both center and guard, which will line up where when the Lions begin their exhibition games in August?
“I think we have a lot of time to figure it out,” Quinn said. “The good thing is you’re exactly right, we’ve got two guys that are versatile that can play multiple spots. So, I think we have a lot of options.”
Ragnow is not alone as a 2017 Razorbacks senior aspiring for a NFL career.
Razorbacks who worked out at the March 26 Pro Day hoping to get free agent tryouts include quarterback Austin Allen safety De’Andre Coley; deep snapper Robert Decker; linebacker Dwayne Eugene; defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson of El Dorado; safety Josh Liddell of Pine Bluff Dollarway; linebacker Karl Roesler and cornerback Henre Toliver.