ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — When Sylvester Williams was 19 years old, he was punching a clock in a radiator factory and his glory days on the gridiron consisted of but a single start in high school.
On Thursday, he signed a four-year, $7.6 million deal with the Denver Broncos, who made him their top draft pick in April.
What an unlikely road to NFL riches for the 313-pound defensive tackle from North Carolina who will vie for a starting job with veterans Kevin Vickerson and Terrance Knighton.
After starting just one football game in high school in Jefferson City, Mo., Williams was working at a factory making radiator parts when he decided to give football another chance and walked on at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas in 2009. Two years later, he went on to star for the Tar Heels, and Denver made him the 28th overall pick in the April draft.
Williams said he was thinking about that long, strange journey Thursday afternoon when he signed his contract, which includes a $3.9 million signing bonus and another $2.2 million in guarantees.
"It was an emotional moment because I went back to my past and thought about some of the things I had been through and where I'm at today and it almost brought me to tears," Williams said. "... I've been given the money. Now, I've got to earn it."
Williams signed his deal between workouts Thursday.
"I was so sad missing the first practice earlier today so I was eager to get out here tonight even though it was a walkthrough," Williams said.
His deal provided a bit of good news for a team that's been beset by one big blow after another this summer. Two executives were suspended after being charged with drunken driving and training camp began with All-Pro linebacker Von Miller appealing a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.