"Happy, happy, happy" was James Williams' reply after learning his son Jimmy, a former player at Wilson High School and all-America defensive end at Nebraska, was a first-round selection of the Detroit Lions in yesterday's National Football League draft.
"We're extremely pleased with the way things went," said Williams, who six months ago predicted his son would be a No. 1 pick. "He even went higher (No. 15 overall) than I thought he would. I talked with Jimmy and he's very happy about going to Detroit. He's worked hard for four years and deserves to be a top pick."
Williams, 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, was equally ecstatic about joining the Lions, who plan to use him as a linebacker.
"I was impressed with their coaches and facilities when I was up there for a workout at the Silverdome," said Williams, in a telephone interview from Lincoln, Neb. "I don't know what my role will be. I know I'll be an outside linebacker."
Williams, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, probably will be an understudy to 32-year-old Stan White, the Lions' defensive captain and right outside linebacker.
"He really is the guy we had targeted to get," Coach Monte Clark said. "The thing that impresses me about Williams is his pass coverage, plus his speed and quickness. We're putting a high priority on pass coverage and Jimmy fits the bill."
Williams, along with brother Toby, a senior-to-be and all-America candidate at tackle next year, made Nebraska's team as walk-ons four years ago. Neither player enjoyed a standout high school career and neither had many scholarship offers. Williams, who felt that both his sons were top-quality players, said he convinced Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne to give them tryouts after they had enrolled in school as freshmen. Both easily made the team and were successful very quickly.
Jimmy Williams was one of the leading tacklers each season, finishing his final year with 41 unassisted tackles, 40 assisted tackles, 10 sacks, two interceptions and one fumble recovery. He made several all-America teams. Nebraska (9-3) lost to top-ranked Clemson, 22-15, in the Orange Bowl.
"In 12 months, he passed every test we gave him and more," said Tim Rooney, the Lions' director of player personnel. "We're not apprehensive at all about Jimmy coming in and playing right away at outside linebacker in the NFL. He's quick, strong and intelligent. He's a true first-rounder."
Quarterback Oliver Luck of West Virginia, who broke nearly every passing record at Morgantown, said he was extremely pleased at being selected by the Houston Oilers in the second round.
"I was kind of hoping to be selected on the second round but I really thought it would be the third or fourth," said Luck, the 17th player chosen on the second round. "That's a real surprise. You never know what will happen in the draft. That's why it's nice to be the third quarterback chosen."
Ohio State's Art Schlichter was selected by Baltimore in the first round and Brigham Young's Jim McMahon was taken by Chicago in the first round before the Oilers, by virtue of a trade with the Los Angeles Rams, obtained a second- round pick and got Luck.
Luck passed for more than 5,000 yards in leading the Mountaineers to a 9-3 record and an upset victory over Florida in the Peach Bowl.
Virginia defensive tackle Stuart Anderson was taken by Kansas City in the fourth round.