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Thinking Big With Chad Williams

Posted May 12, 2017

Cardinals hope they found an heir to Larry Fitzgerald in the third round

Cardinals wide receiver Chad Williams speaks with the media on Thursday afternoon.

Give Chad Williams the opening, and he will dart through it like Russell Westbrook blowing past defenders for a dunk.

The Cardinals drafted the Grambling State star in the third round to strengthen their wide receiving unit, but in his introductory press conference with the Arizona media on Thursday afternoon, Williams was ready to talk hoops.

“A lot of you guys might not know I played basketball in high school,” Williams said. “We won state, and I was the state championship MVP. I can dunk. I’m grabbing rebounds.”

Backcourt or frontcourt?

“Two-guard,” Williams said. “I can shoot it.”

The 6-foot-2, 204-pound Williams said he chose to play football in college because it was always his first love. There is also this reality: In professional basketball, Williams would have been woefully undersized. In the NFL, he’s exactly the size the Cardinals sought.

With Michael Floyd’s release last season and Larry Fitzgerald getting closer to retirement, the Cardinals needed another big-bodied receiver for the future.

John Brown and J.J. Nelson are starting-caliber wideouts, but both check in under six feet and 180 pounds. While looking for larger receivers in the evaluation process, General Manager Steve Keim ran into an issue. As prospects were getting hyped up, coach Bruce Arians was constantly throwing water on the fire.

“I can count on three fingers guys that he has liked that have run over a 4.5 (40-yard dash),” Keim said last week on the Big Red Rage. “The old saying that speed kills and strength punishes, there’s no doubt that B.A. subscribes to that theory.”

The Cardinals zeroed in on Williams because he has the speed along with the size and strength. He reportedly ran 4.37 seconds in the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day and did 21 reps on the bench press.

“I feel (the skill-set) is pretty unique because you never know – I may catch a 10-yard route and I turn around and run you over, but you might think I’m running you over, and I run away from you,” Williams said. “It’s a really good trait to have, and I’m just blessed to have those abilities.”

Scouts have spoken favorably of Williams’ penchant for boxing out defenders and making catches in traffic, something bigger receivers can do that smaller ones struggle with. Williams said that skill was perfected on the hardwood.

“When that football is in the air, it kind of looks like a rebound and I’ll out-jump the guy,” he said. “It’s just good position, body position, things that I’ve worked on.”

Fitzgerald is a Hall of Fame certainty and one of the best players in Cardinals history. A player like that can’t be replaced, but the Cardinals hope Williams will help soften the blow in the future.

“Knowing that Larry is going to one day walk away from the game, you talk about somebody that can carry the torch,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said Thursday on the Big Red Rage. “This is the guy that everybody thinks can do that.”

Williams has three biological and three adopted brothers, and he is the second-youngest of the bunch, so he’s used to the understudy role. His talent grew as a kid because he would be 12 playing sports with siblings that were four, five and 10 years older.

He’s hoping similar tutelage from Fitzgerald can help him ascend in the NFL.

“Most guys don’t end up in a great situation, and the situation I’m in right now is amazing,” Williams said. “I won’t let it slip. I’ll be a sponge. He’ll probably get mad at me, but I want to know everything in his brain.”

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