Leonard Williams was somewhat baffled by the recognition he received this week at USC.
"It was surprising actually," Williams admitted. "I thought Cody Kessler was probably going to win it. He had an outstanding performance this year. I felt like those types of awards mostly go to offensive players."
Earlier this week at the USC team banquet, Williams was named the 2014 USC Team MVP.
He truly believed it would be Kessler. It didn’t dawn on him that he was the recipient until he heard head coach Steve Sarkisian at the podium.
"Once Coach Sark went up there and started talking about me, I just felt good that the team cares about me," Williams said. "It means a lot."
There’s some truth to his thinking. Williams is the first defensive player to win the award since defensive tackle Jurrell Casey won it in 2010.
Matt Barkley won the award in 2011. Marqise Lee took home the honors during a unanimous All-American, Biletnikoff Award winning campaign of 2012. Last season, it was tailback Buck Allen.
Williams was a First Team All-Conference selection for the second consecutive season. He finished the season with 71 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, and six sacks. He also had an interception.
While his stats didn’t raise many eyebrows, his impact on the game could not be questioned. His spirit and attitude was felt throughout the program.
"Leonard’s an awesome guy to coach," Sarkisian said. "He loves football and he loves being around his team. He loves practicing. He loves playing the game for all the right reasons. I think that’s what makes him so genuine. I think that’s why the coaches and players enjoy him so much as well."
Williams, who’s believed to be a top-five pick in the 2015 NFL Draft if he elects to enter, was selected to the AFCA All-America Team. He was also named to the FOX Sports All-America First Team as well as the AP and Walter Camp All-America Second Teams.