On the Buffalo Bills 3-yard line with the end zone in sight, New York Giants running back Andre Williams bent down into the up stance, waiting for the snap. On the previous play, Williams sprinted down the sidelines for a 21-yard gain, with a burst of speed unlike his Boston College days, including his historic senior season.
Eli Manning called for the ball. Williams broke his stance, going from low to high with an explosive burst into the handoff. He stays low after the handoff, gains momentum and cuts to the left through the line and lands in the end zone. It was his first (unofficial) NFL touchdown, but it won’t be his last.
Williams’ debut comes as no surprise. It’s the amount of attention on him that comes as a surprise. The Monday Morning Quarterback documented Williams’ journey to draft day, including the moment the Giants called him to say they selected him in the fourth round.
Yes, a Heisman finalist and the nation’s top running back in the 2013 season was a fourth round selection. You read that correctly.
But even though he was a fourth round pick, Williams played like a first round pick in the Pro Football Hall of Fame game on Sunday night, leading the Giants ground game, a big Achilles’s Heel for the G-Men last season. A strong run game is imperative now with the news of David Wilson being shut down for the 2014 season. And with his 37 yards on 5 carries and a touchdown, Williams got the attention of those who weren’t paying attention before.
It’s been like that Williams’ entire football career. Coming into his senior year, no one paid him any mind, unless you were one of the many Superfans plastered in maroon and gold at Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. If you were one of the lucky few to witness Williams perform on the gridiron, you were mesmerized by his ability to break tackles in explosive manners and blaze by defenders.
Williams’s breakout performance came when BC played against Army. He rushed for 263 yards and scored 5 touchdowns. Following that performance, Williams name was in Heisman talks. His candidacy was solidified with a 339 rushing yards performance against NC State at BC’s final home game.
And yet, with Heisman candidacy, an ability to break tackles and be the center of an offense, a la Adrian Peterson, Williams wasn’t touted as any of this. In a pass-happy NFL, his inability to catch a ball and make a quarterback better was criticized. So he worked on it. But he kept working on what got him to the big dance and that displayed well on Sunday night.
Williams looked faster, stronger and more explosive than ever. If he is better now than last season at BC, great things are destined for Williams this season. The Giants would be wise and allow him to share the load with front man Rashad Jennings, who the Giants signed in free agency. The tandem of Jennings and Williams could be a reincarnation of the Bradshaw and Jacob days, where Manning saw huge success.
But for now, it’s not about Manning or Jennings. The attention is on Williams and it is well deserved. Boston College lives on the motto “Ever to Excel” and demands from its students to “go forth and set the world aflame.” Williams is already excelling early in the NFL and is setting the gridiron aflame with his running improvements. It’s only a matter of time before Williams brings back relevancy to the importance of the running back position and show running backs of his caliber shouldn’t be relegated to the fourth round.
Go; set the NFL aflame, Andre.
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