Bears snare VU's Williams, Bennett

Saturday, April 26, 2008 at 5:55pm

Former Vanderbilt star wide receiver Earl Bennett will join his Commodore teammate, Chris Williams, in Chicago, as the Bears grabbed Bennett in the third round with the 70th overall pick in the NFL Draft on Sunday.

Williams, an offensive tackle, was the Bears' first-round pick on Saturday with the 14th overall selection.

The 6-foot-7, 320-pound Williams had been projected by most analysts to be picked 12th by the Denver Broncos or 14th by the Bears.

Williams, who earned all-SEC honors in 2007, said the Broncos will regret passing him up.

"They'll know why they should have taken me down the road," he said. "I'll enjoy beating the Broncos every time we play them."

Williams' agent, Bill Johnson, said recent meetings with the Bears convinced the team to draft Williams.

Williams made a recent visit to Chicago with Johnson. They met with Bears coach Lovie Smith and others in the team's administration.

"They thought Chris' integrity and character matched his ability on the field," Johnson said.

Williams is the second Vanderbilt player drafted in the first round in two years. Quarterback Jay Cutler was selected by the Denver Broncos in 2006.

Williams, a native of Glynn, La., is also the first Commodore offensive lineman to be drafted in the first round since Will Wolford in 1986.

Williams celebrated with family, friends and former teammates Saturday while watching the draft at a downtown Nashville restaurant. He was hugged by his mother and wife as the Bears' pick was announced on ESPN.

"I can't even describe it. I'm about speechless," Williams said while wearing a Bears cap. "And you know me, I don't get speechless too often. I'm just extremely ecstatic. It's like a dream come true."

Williams said he's ready to get his professional career started.

"I assume they're bringing me in to start," he said. "I'm going in with the mindset of starting. I'm going to bust my butt to get there."

Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson expects Williams to make a smooth transition to the NFL.

"Chris is the total package," Johnson said. "He's talented beyond belief, he's a tremendous teammate and he's just a great person. Chris is an outstanding representative of this university and our football program."

Bennett, the leading receiver in Southeastern Conference history, chose to skip his senior season at Vanderbilt in 2008 to enter this year's draft.

Former University of Tennessee tight end Brad Cottam was taken by Kansas City in the third round Sunday with the 76th overall choice.

More updates later on Vanderbilt players in the NFL Draft on NashvilleCityPaper.com.

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