As the lone outside linebackers working out ahead of the draft at the Michael Johnson Performance facility in Texas, Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams spent plenty of time together talking about their future NFL careers. They were both projected to go either late on day one of the draft or early on day two, so they knew it was highly unlikely that two players with similar skill sets would wind up in the same place.
Yet, there Bowser and Williams were late Thursday night, sharing a room at a hotel near the Ravens' facility. Bowser was trying to get some sleep while Williams was resigned to the fact that it just wasn't going to happen.
"I just kept waking up in the middle of the night because I was so anxious," Williams said after the first day of the Ravens' three-day rookie minicamp. "I was like, 'Man, I wonder what all we have to do.'"
After having just 31 sacks last year, the Ravens entered last week's draft prioritizing finding pass rush help, specifically on the edge. They selected Bowser, who had 81/2 sacks and 12 tackles for loss in just eight games for Houston last year, in the second round. With the second of their two third-round selections, they doubled down and grabbed Williams, a pass-rush specialist at Alabama who had nine sacks and 16 tackles for loss in 15 games.
Over their final two seasons in college, Bowser and Williams combined for 331/2 sacks and 47 tackles for loss.
"Me and him are just going to go out there and do what we have to do, and that's rush the passer and get back there and create plays," Bowser said Friday. "Just having him right beside me is going to be a huge advantage going through the season."
This week's minicamp gives rookies a taste of what's ahead as they attend meetings, watch film and go through on-field practices. For Ravens coach John Harbaugh and his staff, it gives them a better idea how the rookies might fit with the returning players.
The Ravens suddenly have plenty of edge-rushing options with Terrell Suggs, Matthew Judon and Za'Darius Smith also back. With Suggs turning 35 in October, it's easy to imagine the possibilities of Bowser, who is 6 feet 3 and 244 pounds, and Williams, who is 6 feet 4 and 252 pounds, converging on the quarterback from opposite sides for years to come.
"We talk about it a lot, but we know that we have to put the work in first," Williams said. "Nothing is going to be given to us overnight, and this is the National Football League. There are guys in the locker room that have a wife and kids, so we have to come in and compete and earn a spot, which means special teams, kickoff, punt team — it doesn't matter — just to get on the field."
Asked to compare his pass-rushing style with Bowser's, Williams said, "All I know is that Tyus is a great player. He has heart. He can drop, cover, play the run, rush the passer. Same with me. The only thing that I can say that we both have is the will to compete. We're not going to bow down to anybody."
Williams, 23, was ranked by ESPN as the No.1 player in the state of Louisiana coming out of high school and one of the top prep linebackers in the country. After playing sparingly in his first two years for Alabama, he developed into one of college football's best pass-rushing specialists in his junior season when he notched 101/2 sacks for the eventual national champions. He followed that up with a nine-sack senior season.
A likely first-round pick based on production and tools, Williams dropped into the third round, likely because of concerns about some past off-field issues. He admitted that he failed multiple drug tests in college and he also was arrested last September on a misdemeanor gun possession charge.
Williams said that he is motivated by the thought of being a good role model for his two daughters. One is 6 years old and the other was born in March.
"Growing up in Louisiana with [Hurricane] Katrina and everything, I am used to stuff not going my way," Williams said. "One day you can have a house, and the next day your house will be gone. All I needed was to get my foot in the door and to let somebody give me an opportunity. I'm very thankful and very blessed to be here, because at the same time, there are a million other guys out there that did not get their names called."
After making an impact in his first three seasons at Houston, Bowser broke out as a senior with 81/2 sacks in just eight games. He too faced significant questions during the draft process about an altercation he had with Cougars teammate Matthew Adams last September during a team-building exercise. Bowser broke the orbital bone near his right eye in the fight and missed five games.
"Every single team is going to ask me about it, of course, when you've got something like that come up," he said. "I just manned up about it, told them the truth. … We're grown men about it. We're 21 years old. We still have more life to live. We learned from it. We're still good friends. We just moved on."
Bowser was a two-sport standout at talent-rich John Tyler High in Texas. As a guard on the basketball team, he averaged 16.8 points and 7.9 rebounds in his senior season. On the football team, he had 24 sacks as a senior.
He played basketball and football his first two seasons at Houston before opting to concentrate on football his junior and senior years at Houston.
"Tyus has always been a kid focused on what he needs to do. For the last two years, he's finally gotten to the point where I wanted him to get to where he's focused on football," said Ricklan Holmes, the football coach and athletic director at John Tyler. "Everybody is about to get the real Tyus Bowser. We've always known what he can do physically with his size and speed. Now, he's become more of a technician. He's always been one of those kids who if he puts his mind to anything, he's going to conquer it."
Before the minicamp even started, Bowser put his name on an NFL contract, one of the Ravens' five draft picks to sign. On Friday, he and Williams were out on the field in their Ravens jerseys, a scenario that neither could have imagined before the draft.
"It's hard to even explain it, to be honest with you," Bowser said. "It is just so much hard work, so much time that you have put in over the last couple of years. And then, just seeing an NFL contract, a lot of it has paid off."