Green Bay Packers 2017 Draft: Interview with Grambling State WR Chad Williams

Jan 25, 2017; Mobile, AL, USA; South squad wide receiver Chad Williams of Grambling State (84) catches a pass against safety Justin Evans of Texas A&M (14) during Senior Bowl practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 25, 2017; Mobile, AL, USA; South squad wide receiver Chad Williams of Grambling State (84) catches a pass against safety Justin Evans of Texas A&M (14) during Senior Bowl practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports /

The one aspect of the draft that makes the annual NFL ritual equal parts enjoyable and challenging for general managers is unearthing hidden gems from schools that are way off the public radar, but can sometimes serve as hotbeds for skill-position players with intriguing next-level talent.

When the topic of small-school success stories is broached, most Packer backers can’t help but think of John Kuhn, an obscure undrafted fullback from a tiny Pennsylvania-based Division II institution also known as Shippensburg University.

Others that have taken the unconventional route to Packers News, include two wide receivers from Division II Saginaw Valley State in the form of Ruvell Martin and an athlete of more recent vintage Jeff Janis.

None of these pass catchers ever went on to become regular starters, but both developed into useful pieces in the passing game and on special teams.

Among this year’s crop of prospects from the FCS level ( NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision ) is Grambling State’s Chad Williams, a physical 6-foot-1 receiver with the competitive fire to match an intoxicating combination of hand, speed and leaping skills.

Williams emerged as a big-play artist over his last two seasons at the Division I-AA level by posting back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns.

He was the team’s top weapon on jump balls, but the Baton Rouge, LA born pass catcher also showcased his dazzling talent on slants and skinny posts where the long-strider’s run-after-catch abilities made him the featured part of his offense that saw his share of double-teams.

Williams’ success was a key factor that contributed to his team winning consecutive West Division titles in the SWAC (Southwest Athletic Conference) in 2015 and 2016 along with beating North Carolina Central in the Celebration Bowl, which earned Grambling State its 15th  Black College Football National Championship in December.

The 2016 SWAC leader in receptions, yards and touchdowns finally gained some national notoriety at the annual NFLPA game, where Williams caught the eye of several NFL representatives in attendance, as he carefully heeded the coaching of former greats Torry Holt and Andre Reed.

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His performance at the Los Angeles-based all-star game resulted in the unknown NFL hopeful earning the break he had been hoping for when Williams was invited to partake in the Senior Bowl as a late call-in.

It was there where the former SWAC phenom locked horns with some of the top defensive backs in the nation. He immediately proved he could separate in one-on-one matchups, as he went on to get the best of Damontae Kazee and Tre’Davious White among others.

One individual who wasn’t taken aback by the young man’s exploits was his former college coach Broderick Fobbs, who stated, “I think what a lot of people fail to realize is that there’s a huge difference between FBS football and FCS football and there are certain areas on the field where there are. But receiver is not one of them.”

He added, “Chad is an exceptional football player. He was very dominant on our level and he dominated every one we played even on the FBS level.”

Williams agreed to an interview with Lombardi Ave in which he discussed his journey from being a football-crazed youngster in the country’s Gulf Coast region to working his way up to learning how to play a new position as a collegian and thriving in his new role.

The Grambling State product came across as polite and articulate, but what was also evident was his desire to be great no matter what the odds or obstacles that may stand in his way.

Here is my conversation with the wide receiver, who will be expecting to hear his name called at some point during the draft in late April.

Q: Talk about growing up in Baton Rouge. Was football your first love or were you busy playing other sports as well?

A: I used to play football growing up with my friends every day from sun up to sun down.  But my first organized football experience was when I was about nine or 10 years old and I played for the Eastside Raiders. I started off playing offensive line and defensive line. I was the best lineman out there. I really loved youth football. Football was actually my first love. Basketball tried to take over a little bit, but I never lost my passion for football, man. Since I was little, I just wanted to do things with football. Everything was all about football.

Q: You were a late call to the Senior Bowl. You looked like you did pretty well out there. Did things turn out the way you expected?

A: It definitely turned out the way I expected. I mean, I give all my praise to God on a weekly basis. I just prayed about everything and when I got the call, I knew he would let me go out there and perform to the best of my abilities and just show people who I am. There was no pressure about whether I was good enough to play at that level. I’m a Division I-AA guy, but it’s no different for me. Everyone puts on their pants the same way and I just strapped it up and showed everybody who I was.

Q: What are you up to in terms of your training?

A: Right now, I’m focusing on being more flexible, more agile. I’m loosening up my hips and definitely running fast. I’ve been working on those speed drills every day…speed, speed, speed. I want to run really, really fast on pro day. I want to run so fast that they’ll need to double-check the clock. The strength is there. I’m strong enough. I’m physical enough. I’m big enough. But there’s a question mark about my speed. My pro day is March 21 and I just want them to know that this kid can run.

Q: What types of numbers are you shooting for at your pro day?

A: I don’t really want to throw things out there because I don’t want to spoil it. But I want to get some irregular numbers on my pro day.

Q: How are you approaching the position drills?

A: I just want to show I can run a clean route tree. I want to show I can run in and out of breaks. My speed cuts are there. I just want to establish myself to the point where [evaluators] can say, “Man, this kid has very strong hands.”

Q: What are you going to miss most from your college days at Grambling State?

A: Man, I’m just going to miss training with some of these guys I came in with as a freshman. Coming in, we were all young, but we knew one day this was going to be our team and with those older guys leaving, we knew we had to grow up. Coming in, we grew up early. We had a number of guys that played as freshmen and started as freshmen…and that bond got real close. We had such a strong bond. I’ll definitely miss going out there and playing with my brothers.

Q: And what about your victory in the SWAC Football Championship?

A: That championship…it was a celebration. It was something that we really worked hard for. We overcame. We took it one game at a time and we prospered.

Q: I noticed that even though you’re over 200 pounds, you move like a smaller person. What are some traits that make you worthy of being drafted?

A: I am a big, physical body. I play with a lot of passion. I love this game. I put a lot of passion and aggression towards football. You know, when you love something, you give it your all and do it. I’m the guy who gives it all and goes 110 percent. One of my biggest goals at the beginning of the year was to play faster. I started playing faster my junior year. When you turn the tape on, it looks like my hair is on fire.

Q: What can you tell me about the offense you played in at Grambling State?

A: We played in a spread offense, 10 personnel mostly. Our offensive coordinator (Eric Dooley) was a very smart man. We spread it out and everyone touched the ball. We moved fast. We tried to snap the ball in 13 seconds.

Q: What is your favorite part of playing wide receiver?

A: Being able to run one-on-one on an island with a man and looking at him in the face and telling him he has to stop you. But, you know, double-teams are cool too. I mean, when the other team gives you a double-team, it sends a message. When you bust that double-team, it’s like, “Come on, guys. You’ve got to do better than that.” We run the most out of everybody on the field, but man, there’s nothing like seeing that 70-yard bomb drop right out of the air and you’ve got the db beat by about 5 yards. It’s sick. It’s the best part of it.

Q: You were also heavily involved in running plays as a blocker. How did you like doing that?

A: I’m extremely passionate about the running game. The running game starts with the receivers. You have to block those guys because when the quarterback is dropping back and the running back is in protection, the RB is blocking for you. So I just return the favor and do it for the running back also. Blocking is probably one of my favorite aspects of the game. I block with a passion and I block with a purpose.

Q: Can you expound a bit on your versatility? I thought I saw you throwing a pass on one play.

A: I’m pretty versatile. I play outside at the X and the Z. I also had formations where I played in the slot. I played 80 percent outside and 20 percent inside. I can play both; I feel comfortable playing both. I passed on a speed sweep. That was the touchdown you saw.

Q: Did you play any quarterback in high school?

A: The only time I played receiver was my ninth-grade year. In every other year, it was quarterback.

Q: Talk about those that may be keeping you low on their draft boards because of the level of competition you faced in the SWAC. Your thoughts?

A: I understand where that comes from, but I really don’t get caught up in it because I always tell people, “I don’t care who you are. I don’t care if you’re the best or worst player in the world. If you’re the worst player in the world, I’m not going to downplay my game just enough to beat you. I’m going to play my game. I’m not going to give you a piece of me because I know a piece of can win.” I’m going to be Chad Williams 100-percent of the time. If someone is the best player in the world, I’m still going to be Chad Williams. You’re going to get me 100-percent of the time—the same guy. I would say the competition level was a downplay for me because I play to my capabilities every snap. I don’t play down to my opponent’s capabilities.

Q: Do you watch much of the Packers? Are there any players you like from that team?

A: I actually like the Green Bay Packers. I’m a fan of a lot of the guys on the team. Jordy Nelson is my guy. He’s as tough as nails. I hated when he took that shot in the ribs (see Wildcard win over the New York Giants) that got him knocked out. And Aaron Rodgers is like an American sniper with the football.

Q: Who are the receivers you try to study in the NFL?

A: I really don’t pinpoint guys to study. I watch a lot of guys. Some guys have better traits than others. You look at Odell Beckham, he has great releases. I try to watch Dez Bryant run when the ball is in the air. He’s real aggressive. I watch Antonio Brown run routes. He’s great at getting separation. There’s a lot of guys. I can go on and on. I watch every one and what they all do and kind of like steal a little bit from everybody. To say if I have a favorite guy or two, I would say I like Julio Jones and Dez Bryant.

Q: So, you like the big physical guys. Would you say that physicality is your best asset?

A: My biggest strength is my drive. I play hard every snap.

Q: Are there any glaring weaknesses in your game?

A: This isn’t so much a weakness as much as it is a new thing to me: I want to be able to recognize NFL coverages. I want to able to identify the safeties and cornerbacks and see things before they actually happen. In the NFL, everyone is much bigger, much faster and way, way smarter than the average college guy. These guys are actually getting paid for this.

Q: What is the most underrated part of your game?

A: My ability to get separation.

Q: Here are my non-football questions, Chad. What is your favorite movie of all time?

A: Space Jam

Q: Who is your favorite music artist?

A: I listen to a lot of different music, but I like Jay Zee.

Q: Who is your favorite non-football athlete?

A: Kyrie Irving

Q: Wow. Why did I think you were going to say Steph Curry?

A: I’m taking Kyrie over Steph, but not as a shooter. Kyrie can shoot the ball, but Steph is outstanding. Kyrie is the better facilitator and ball handler. He plays defense, he plays hard and gets guys open. Man, I’m definitely going with Kyrie.

Q: What is your favorite meal?

A: A good steak.

Q: What is your favorite hobby?

A: A couple of years ago, I started being big on fishing. I like to go out in the water and fish whenever I get the chance to. I also like to ride four-wheelers. I’m a country boy.

Q: What city, state, country or continent would you really like to travel to?

A: Africa.

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