Diamonds in the rough. Hidden gems. Aces in the hole. The NFL is built on these low round or undrafted "projects," often from small schools, which eventually become some of the league's best.
The Cardinals may have found one of their own in the form of undrafted free agent Stephen Williams. The Toledo product has taken Arizona's training camp by storm with his impressive skills and hungry attitude.
"I have a chip on my shoulder," said Williams about not being drafted. "I'm just focused. I came here to play football. You can't be distracted, it will get you cut."
Williams certainly has the prototypical size for an NFL receiver at 6-foot-5, 208 pounds but what sets him apart is his speed (sub-4.5 40) and his hands. The Houston native has caught nearly everything thrown his way in camp, and as a result has caught the eye of his coaches.
"When you judge young guys you want to see how they do in an environment like this as a test," coach Ken Whisenhunt said following this past weekend's scrimmage. "It was nice to see (Williams) make plays in the environment with the pressure."
Williams has a knack for making plays. At Toledo, he earned All-MAC honors three times and set the school record for career receptions (229) and receiving yards (3,102). Those records were previously set by another hidden gem, New Orleans Saints' wideout Lance Moore.
Williams' confidence seems to be growing with each practice and Whisenhunt says he will be challenged in the preseason. However, Williams sees it as another chance to prove himself.
"It's clicking," Williams said. "I am learning everyday, but I am enjoying this."
Williams is expected to push for playing time with fellow rookie Andre Roberts and Onrea Jones, but Williams' consistency in practice has set himself apart.
If Williams can translate his skills into results against the competition, this former Rocket could be flying high in red and white.
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