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For Williams, A Promise Kept

Posted Apr 29, 2011

Second-round back says he knew he'd be a Cardinal

Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams (34) was the Cards' second-round selection.


When Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams took a pre-draft visit to Tempe, he sat down with a handful of coaches and personnel men, and one of them – Williams doesn’t remember who – made a promise.

“They told me how interested they were in me and that they hope and pray I was there at pick 38 because at pick 38, I’d be a Cardinal,” Williams said.

“I’m not sure if they told anybody else that … but they were men of their word and I really, really respect that. I trust them with everything, because they said what they were going to do.”

That’s what the Cards did, taking Williams in the second round. It was still a surprise considering the Cardinals have bigger needs at linebacker, offensive line and tight end, among other spots.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves weren't sure that's exactly how it went down with Williams, who said offensive coordinator Mike Miller, defensive coordinator Ray Horton, tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens and director of player personnel Steve Keim were among those with him.

"That'd be highly risky," Graves said with a chuckle. "We are glad we made an impression on him."

Said Whisenhunt with a smile, "I'm not so sure that's exactly what was said. Maybe you should circle back and ask those guys (who were with him). I know I will."

He goes from one loaded backfield to another. The Cardinals already have 2009 No. 1 pick Beanie Wells, Tim Hightower (whose contract has expired) and LaRod Stephens-Howling.

“I know it’s a crowded backfield, but I will do my best to get on the field and help this team win,” Williams said.

Hightower, whose contract has expired, has had fumbling issues. Wells has yet to consistently play like the Cardinals had hoped. Then again, the Cards said they wanted to push to take best player available, and given Williams’ pre-draft anecdote, that’s what they did.

Whisenhunt insisted the pick wasn't to send a message to Wells or any of the running backs, simply that Williams was ranked No. 15 on the team's top 120 board and they wanted an impact player.

Whisenhunt did say, however, that Williams was not a fumbler. "I like that, since it's certainly been an issue for our running backs the last couple of years."

"Let's face it guys," Whisenhunt said. "We were 5-11 last year. We've got to get better as a football team. When you take the best players available in your opinion -- we put a lot of work into this -- we become a better football team."

Williams was explosive in 2009, rushing for 1,655 yards (5.7 yards a carry), although hamstring problems and two other quality backs pushed Williams’ yardage total to just 477 yards in 2010 with a per-carry average of 4.3.

He came out for the draft early anyway, saying he was effective once he returned from the injury and that his overall statistics didn’t show what kind of player he was anyway.

Pro Football Weekly actually said one of Williams’ negatives was that he “runs too hard.”

“I don’t think that should be a negative,” Williams said. “I think the softer you play, the more liable you are to get hurt. Especially as a running back.

“You have to go hard every play and if you don’t go hard every play, you shouldn’t be playing running back. My negative about running too hard is that I hate going down … but as far as running too hard, that isn’t a negative.”

Williams shrugged off a slow 40 time at the combine, saying he plays faster. The Cardinals, he said, recognized that.

Given how he waited in the green room in New York since yesterday waiting to be taken, Williams was thrilled to be going to Arizona, even if he had gotten a hint. Surrounded by a large entourage of family and friends, he started sobbing when the Cards had him on the phone.

“This is all I ever wanted to do my whole life,” Williams said. “Everything just came out. Those were all the emotions since I was 7 or 8 years old when I had it planned out I wanted to be in the NFL.”
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