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Small-town Williams is emerging as big-play guy

Courtesy: ODU Athletics
         
Release: October 26, 2008
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Oct. 26, 2008

When Old Dominion began practice in August, Desmond Williams looked more like a boot camp Marine than a football player.

All he seemed to do was push-ups.

"When I was a quarterback in high school, my receivers would do push-ups if they dropped a pass in practice," Williams said. "I figured since I was moving to receiver I'd do the same thing.

"I just didn't know I'd do so many."

Eventually, Williams stopped dropping passes and the push-ups became more of a rarity. Saturday, when the Monarchs hold their second open scrimmage at 6 p.m. at Powhatan Field, Williams' goal will be to show what he can do when he actually catches the ball.

"He'll be a dangerous threat come next fall when we start playing," receivers coach Keita Malloy said. "Desmond has it all: speed, quickness, strength and athleticism."

That athleticism had Williams on the radars of both North Carolina and East Carolina last winter. He said UNC assistant coach Ken Browning made visits to Bertie High in Windsor, N.C., to say hello and check in with him "it seemed like almost every week."

"I kept waiting for them to make an offer," Williams said. "But I think they had some other guys they were looking at. I was only going to get an offer if something else didn't pan out."

Williams ended the wait-and-see game by committing to ODU, which is building a Division I-AA program from scratch and will begin play next fall.

"Typical small-town kid who got overlooked," Malloy said. "Good for us.

"I've told Desmond, 'It's not where you play; it's how you play.' He might be in the NFL one day. And when you get there, they won't care whether you played at Texas or ODU."

Williams is enough of an athlete that he stepped in and played cornerback for an injured starter in North Carolina's East-West high school All-Star Game, even though he'd never played the position in his life.

"He's what I like to call a do-it-all guy," ODU coach Bobby Wilder said.

Saturday, there's a chance the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Williams will fill many roles. He's on the depth chart as a slot receiver, running back, H-back and punt returner. There's even the possibility he'll line up for a direct snap from center.

Williams feels he didn't show much in ODU's first scrimmage, and what he showed wasn't all too flashy. After catching a screen pass, he found himself pinned in on the right sideline by a linebacker who'd read the play perfectly.

Instead of going down and taking what probably would have been a 3-yard loss, Williams reversed field and lost 9 yards.

"First, I shouldn't have reversed field," Williams said. "What worked in high school doesn't always work in college.

"Second, I probably should have just dropped the pass on purpose. That way, we'd have had second-and-10 instead of second-and-13."

The fact that Williams had picked up on the second option impressed Malloy.

"It's all a learning process," Malloy said. "He'll get it. And when he does, look out."

And should Williams purposely drop a screen pass that's going nowhere fast Saturday, no penalty push-ups will be necessary.

Rich Radford, (757) 446-2463 rich.radford@pilotonline.com

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