By Adam Aniba
Every season at The Burgundy and Gold Report, we zero in on a few small school and HBCU NFL Draft prospects that we believe will have success on the next level. This season, Fayetteville State CB Joshua Williams takes center stage and was gracious enough to discuss his journey that got him invited to the Senior Bowl and now, the highly coveted NFL Combine.
Williams made his presence felt on Day 1 of the Senior Bowl, displaying elite speed and suddenness for a DB his size. His physicality and the overall length stood all week. He used his time in Mobile wisely, often seen talking to position coordinators and looking for pointers.
Williams is the first player, from Fayetteville State, invited to the Senior Bowl and was one of only a handful of HBCU prospects invited. The added pressure to perform against the top quarterbacks in the nation only shined the spotlight brighter on the small school cornerback.
6'2 1/2" 193 lbs | CB | Fayetteville State
Draft Proj 3rd Rd
Career (28 games) 79 tak (55 solo), 11.5 TFL, 1 sack, 5 ints (374 int ret yds), 2 tds & 22 PD
2020 (Season Postponed to Spring Did Not Play)
2021 (9 games) 31 tak (20 solo) 3 ints and 9 PD
Getting To Know Joshua
Before the discussion dug into the Fayetteville State defensive back's on-the-field play, we talked about the new age of player sponsorship and NIL deals in college football. What does an NIL deal mean? An NIL deal, in regards to college athletes, refers to a player being able to profit off their name, image and likeness.
The new guidelines offer varying degrees of new protections for young student athletes with opportunities to make money by selling their NIL rights. Williams believes his experience working with sponsors will be valuable for his short and long term future. Williams agreed to financial terms with Fuddruckers Restaurant new owner Nicolas Perkins and views the agreement as his first of many moves in the modern business world.
When the discussion shifted back to the field, Williams raved about the mentors and influential people in his life, with his father taking center stage as his #1 supporter. He went onto to say how influential his high school coaches have been, especially Coach Frierson who he continued to work with during his time at Fayetteville State University.
Williams gained national attention in '21 with ESPN's Jordan Reed spotlighting him in a feature along with his team. Now expectations are high for the defensive back, who has started to truly believe that the NFL would be his future destination.
"This year I definitely got more attention than I've ever gotten. It was great working with ESPN's Jordan Reed and him coming out with an article about me. It was a blessing, it shined a spotlight on me and my school and how we produce good players. My teammates are great players and they work hard. Everything that happened this season was a blessing, from how the season played out, the attention we got and being able to walk away healthy".
Prior to the season, Williams was on the Senior Bowl watch list. Getting an invite to the Senior Bowl from Jim Naggy and being the first player selected from Fayetteville State to play in the game, was a huge career accomplishment for WIlliams.
During our conversation, Williams mentioned how the watch list led to him making a list of goals prior to the season. Both the Senior Bowl and the All-American & All-Conference team topped his list of individual goals. Seeing both goals come to fruition meant a lot to the defensive back and is a testament to how much work Williams put in prior and during the season.
During the evaluation process, a frequent question posed to defensive backs from scouts is about the level of comfort playing man coverage vs zone. Joshua views himself as a scheme versatile prospect, believing he can play both equally well. He mentions the advantage his long arms provide when playing man to man and believes his athleticism make him a fit for any scheme. We are both in agreement that he'll be a great player once he gains NFL experience and puts it all together.
Williams attended Jack Britt HS in Fayetteville, NC where he played on the offensive side of the ball as a receiver, up until his senior year. Williams' focus was primarily on track & field , rather than football. He competed in the 100-meter and 200-meter dash, 110-meter hurdles, and the long jump, with a personal best 10.68 seconds in the 100-meter dash. Williams would attend a postgraduate program at Palmetto Prep Academy in Columbia, SC for a semester, due to academic requirements he needed to fulfill to play college football.
The stop at Palmetto Prep Academy was an unexpected turn in his career, but Williams was a D-II qualifier and selected Fayetteville State to pursue his career in football. Coming home to play for the Broncos was the icing on the cake for Williams and his family.
Tale of the Tape
Advanced play recognition and ability to read routes is notable
Measurables and overall speed exceeds NFL baseline
Explosive tackler vs the run, shows no fear
Displays an alpha mentality as a field general
Large tackle radius attributed to his length (arms 32 1/4" & wingspan 78 1/8")
Dominated level of competition and showed he belonged at the Senior Bowl
Explosive and it shows because of Track & Field background
Ability to lock down portions of the field
Exceptional timing with the ball in the air, doesn't get grabby
High football IQ with an understanding of situational football, most notably in red zone coverage
After he ran a blazing 21.75 mph during Senior Bowl practices, Williams became a lot more intriguing to NFL scouts. In fact, he is on the short list of HBCU prospects that received an invite for the NFL Combine.
Make no mistake, Williams is tailor made for the combine. His track background, measurables and ability make him an ideal riser candidate in this year's draft class.
This NFL Draft may have bigger/more nationally recognized names, but his ability to fit into any system will make him desirable when the run on defensive backs take place on Day 2 of the draft.
Although rarely targeted by opposing quarterbacks, WIlliams still recorded a career high 3 interceptions and 9 passes defended in '21. Teams searching for an imposing corner, who can be utilized on the outside in press coverage or in zone, would be hard pressed to find a more diligent prospect then Williams.
Often times, outside of the first two rounds of the draft, the talent drop is significant. Coming from the small school level is always an uphill battle. Williams would surely be in the discussion as a top 50 prospect if he attended a power 5 program. But primarily based on the level of competition he faced, Williams finds himself as a late day 3 projected prospect of many online draft boards.
Williams will get another opportunity to put out more tape for NFL teams at this weekend's HBCU Legacy Bowl, with NFL representatives in attendance.
Williams is an intelligent young man with attention to detail and is surrounded by a great support system. The Fayetteville State corner has the most to offer of any of the small school prospects in this year's class.
Once projected as a 6th round draft prospect, Williams continues to defy the odds and display why he deserves to be in the discussion as a Day 2 selection.
Thanks again to Joshua Williams for taking the time to talk to The Burgundy and Gold Report. Find him on Twitter @Jwilliofficial
*Games Watched- 9/3/21 vs Elizabeth City State, 9/11 vs Wingate, 9/25 vs Va State,10/2 vs Lincoln, 10/9 vs Shaw, 10/16 vs Johnson C. Smith, 10/23 vs St.Augustine's, 10/30 vs Livingstone, 11/6 vs Winston-Salem St & 11/13 vs Bowie State Univ
*Team Fits- WAS, NE, ARZ, HOU, PHI, DEN, DET, CAR, NO, ATL, MIN, SEA, LV
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