The Houston Texans' focal point of the offseason has been adding speed, something the franchise has lacked since its inception in 2002. The organization took the first steps toward changing that with the addition of rookies Will Fuller and Braxton Miller by way of the 2016 NFL Draft, and they continued the process with the signing of undrafted University of the Cumberlands rookie wide receiver and return man Wendall Williams.
Williams began to raise some eyebrows with the staggering numbers he put up at a NFL Regional Scouting Combine in Minnesota, where the NAIA track All-American posted a 4.19 40-yard dash, along with a 45-inch vertical leap.
Although Williams' 40-yard dash was later rounded up to 4.32 after being measured on laser time, the 45-inch leap would have tied for the NFL Combine record along with Donald Washington and Chris Conley.
Williams' speed resulted in some stellar performances during joint practices with the San Francisco 49ers last week, as the 23-year-old caught a beautiful touchdown pass down the sideline while leaving coverage trailing in the dust behind him.
"I'm just trying to compete every day," Williams said. "It was a great experience here. It's definitely a confidence-booster. Hopefully, we have a good outcome on Sunday. I just want to compete and win and show what I can do."
The former truck driver from New York has also caught the attention of newly-acquired Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler. Courtesy of the Houston Chronicle's Aaron Wilson, Osweiler says Williams looks like he moves at "100 miles per hour."
"He's pretty fast," Osweiler said. "I just kind of turned my head and saw Wendall taking a kickoff return, looked like he was going 100 miles per hour, so he's very special when it comes to his speed."
Once having to wake up at dawn every day to deliver hamburger buns to Five Guys before dominating the gridiron at the University of the Cumberlands, Williams now has a shot to make a name for himself in the NFL with the Texans, and he's loving every second of it:
"I love it," Williams said. "Every time I walk on the field, I feel chills. I was driving a truck, but it made me who I am today. I went through a lot of ups and downs in my life."
Fellow Texans wide receiver Jaelen Strong is also a fan of Williams' work, as Strong studied up on the undrafted rookie before taking the field opposite his new teammate:
"Wendall Williams probably gets up to 28 miles per hour on a bad day," Strong said. "I knew he was fast before we practiced. I like to look to see the guys we get on our team and get to know them before I meet them. I saw he ran like a 4.19. When I saw that I was pretty excited to see him."
Williams is attempting to compete for a job as a reserve wide receiver as he adjusts to the speed of the game at the NFL level, but believes he can make an impact for Houston in the return specialist position, where the rookie says he feels at home:
"It's going good, I love it," Williams said. "I'm trying, man. I want to come out here, compete and be a great teammate. I'm very comfortable back there returning kicks. I'm at home on returns. I stay in my playbook, so I can produce more on the offensive side. As a receiver, you want to catch everything, but no one is perfect. I'm just trying to stay focused."
Texans wide receiver coach Sean Ryan says he also sees a lot of potential in Williams' game, and while he credits the University of the Cumberlands product for his dedication to learning the Texans' offensive system, Ryan says Williams' game-changing speed is just something you can't teach:
"I was happy," Ryan said. "He was making progress. He comes from an offense that's a lot different from what we do. There was a learning curve for him, but he's another guy who's really dedicated to learning and making some strides. The speed, you can't teach that."
With three preseason games left, you do you think Wendall Williams has a real chance to make the Texans' 53-man roster? How about the practice squad?
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