Behind the curtain: An inside look at SEC Media Days with Darryl Williams

 

Mississippi State Bulldogs offensive lineman Darryl Williams speaks with the media during SEC Media Days at the Hyatt Regency-Birmingham.

Mississippi State Bulldogs offensive lineman Darryl Williams speaks with the media during SEC Media Days at the Hyatt Regency-Birmingham. Photo by: Vasha Hunt/USA TODAY Sports

 

Ben Portnoy

 

 

HOOVER, Ala. -- Mississippi State senior center Darryl Williams arrived in style. 

 

Joined by MSU coach Joe Moorhead, junior linebacker Erroll Thompson and senior tight end Farrod Green, the Bulldog quartet exited a black Mercedes-Benz bus around 12:30 p.m Wednesday outside the Hyatt Regency -- Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover for SEC Media Days. 

 

Donning a slick maroon suit, a gold watch on his left wrist and Ray-Ban sunglasses, Williams strode toward the hotel entrance. 

 

Inside the lobby, a swarm of fans greeted the Bulldog delegation. 

 

While Alabama fans dominated the morning crowd as coach Nick Saban addressed reporters, the few gathered MSU fans headed for the plastic barriers separating them from the players and Moorhead as the Bulldogs entered.  

 

Williams took his time walking through the crowd. With his sunglasses still perched on his face and AirPods in his ears, he posed for selfies, signed autographs and appeased the raucous crowd. 

 

"I swear, this feels like Hollywood," Williams told the Dispatch. 

 

Taking a sharp left, Williams, Moorhead, Green and Thompson packed into the elevator. 

 

Arriving on the third floor, the group entered room 315 -- a suite overlooking the front of the hotel and the location of the day's first event, a media session with Starkville-based reporters. 

 

A few minutes prior to the media's arrival, Williams sat on a couch in the middle of the room. He placed his sunglasses on the table and took his headphones out of his ears thanks to some coaxing from an MSU media relations staffer. 

 

Seconds later he arose from the couch. Staring out of the wide-stretching window that extended the length of the room he reflected.  

 

A Bessemer, Alabama native, Williams stood just 15 minutes from his hometown.  

 

"It feels good to be home," he said. 

 

*** 

 

They call it "The Car Wash." 

 

On the second floor of the Hyatt Regency, ESPN, CBS and a number of other outlets have designed a rotational strip of rooms for the players and coaches to go through.  

 

Following the local media session, Williams entered "The Car Wash." 

 

His winding odyssey began with an interview for ESPN's College Gameday.  

 

Sitting in front of a blurred background, Williams' right knee bounces ever-so slightly. An interviewer seated behind the camera opens the questioning.  

 

"What was the most interesting thing you did this offseason?" she asks. 

 

Williams responds resoundingly. 

 

Traveling to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, he and his family spent time camping and enjoying the company of loved ones he later explained. 

 

The trip took a Griswoldian twist as a bear broke into the family van, rummaging through the trash and food inside. 

 

"That had to be No. 1," Williams later said of where the trip ranked. 

 

Around 1:54 p.m., Williams enters the photo-shoot room. A green screen and a separate metallic background with white lights sit on opposite corners of the space.  

 

As Kanye West's "Stronger" blares in the background, Williams is asked if he has a music preference. He doesn't. Kanye continues to rap. 

 

Props are added to the shoot. Williams is offered two types of Ray-Bans as his own remained in room 315. He tries the Wayfarers. No dice. He next tries on the Aviators. Bingo.  

 

Williams lets out a yell in favor of the shades. 

 

"Wooooooo!" he exclaims. 

 

*** 

 

Williams enters the main ballroom at roungly 2 p.m. 

 

Interview stations have been set up in three of the four corners of the massive space.  

 

Williams is assigned to the spot left of the stage -- the set that had been reserved for quarterbacks throughout the week. 

 

Catching his breath, Williams receives a towel from SEC Director of Student Engagement Misty Brown -- his chaperone for the afternoon. He quickly wipes his brow and takes a swig of water. 

 

"I'm good," Williams tells Brown. Media begin to gather. 

 

The questions are wide-ranging. Williams is asked repeatedly about graduate transfer quarterback Tommy Stevens and the brewing competition with incumbent junior Keytaon Thompson. 

 

A Florida writer requests his thoughts on former MSU coach Dan Mullen while a Kentucky reporter queries what kind of game folks should expect between the Wildcats and Bulldogs Sept. 21.  

 

As the scrum dissipates, Jim Nagy, Executive Director of the Senior Bowl approaches Williams. 

 

"I looked at a bunch of your tape already," Nagy said. "We'll come see you play a couple times this fall." 

 

After a short conversation, Nagy leaves the stage. Williams is left alone at the table. He looks up at the bright lights shining down on him. 

 

"I should've brought my sunglasses," he said.  

 

*** 

 

Following the main media session and a separate press conference for the electronic media, Williams steps into the foyer outside the ballroom. 

 

He checks his phone. Flipping through the photos Brown had taken of him during his photo-shoot, Williams quickly exclaims, "I can't wait to show Mom these!" 

 

Satonya Parker had previously joined her son in the suite during the local media session but departed as he began moving through the stations.  

 

Williams says he calls her every day, sometimes as many as three times in 24 hours. Given their relationship, the origins of Williams' outfit is far from surprising. 

 

"She picked everything," he said. "The whole nine yards." 

 

A few more interviews follow with CBS Sports and Sirius XM. Chatting with a CBS host, Williams brags on his famed culinary abilities. 

 

The self-proclaimed best cook on the team, he explains he and senior linebacker Tim Washington compete for the title. 

 

Washington's dish of choice is chicken, while Williams prefers ribs. 

 

"If they don't fall off the bone, I don't want them," he said. 

 

After a final interview with the Sirius XM staff, he begins his walk toward "Radio Row" -- the strip of local stations gathered right off the lobby. 

 

Before descending down the escalator, Williams and Brown part ways. The two embrace. Williams thanks Brown for her help throughout the day. 

 

He reaches the lobby and veers right. For nearly an hour Williams stops in with a handful of Mississippi and Alabama-based shows. 

 

"It's like the fourth quarter with three minutes left," he said minutes earlier. 

 

*** 

 

The day's scoreboard hits zero around 4:30. 

 

Williams and Green board the elevator outside room 315. Two media members are already aboard. Unprompted, Williams greets them both with a sturdy handshake and a booming, "Hi, I'm Darryl Williams." 

 

"Where you from?" he asks one of the passengers. 

 

"California," they respond. 

 

"That's big time!" Williams says. "How about you?" 

 

The other man appeases the inquisitive offensive lineman. "Florida," he said. 

 

"That's also big time," Williams adds. 

 

The door opens in the lobby. A thinned crowd of autograph seekers greets the party. 

 

Striding through radio row once more, Williams and Green head to the food court in the attached mall as they await Moorhead who is 10 minutes behind schedule. 

 

Long day in tow, Williams resisted fatigue. It felt good to be home.

 

Ben Portnoy reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @bportnoy15.

 

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