MIAMI (AP) — The Miami Dolphins posted a tweet Saturday of a new, nearly life-size photo covering an elevator door at the stadium. It showed rookie Preston Williams making an acrobatic catch in the team’s first exhibition game.
“That’s so awesome!” Williams tweeted in response.
The Dolphins agree.
Their undrafted rookie was the game’s biggest star Thursday, with four receptions for 97 yards, including a diving catch for 16, a leaping grab over a defender for 27, and a one-hander for 36.
The breakout performance wasn’t exactly a surprise because Williams has been Miami’s most impressive rookie in training camp.
“That guy can be special,” said teammate Xavien Howard, a Pro Bowl cornerback. “He’s just a rookie. There is so much room for improvement with him, but he’s going to be a No. 1 receiver one day.”
Williams had 14 touchdown catches as a senior last year at Colorado State and was touted by at least one draft prognosticator as a potential first-round pick. But because of his 2017 arrest on misdemeanor charges stemming from a domestic dispute, his invitation to the NFL combine was pulled.
He then went undrafted, and signed as a free agent with Miami. Under first-year coach Brian Flores, the Dolphins have showed a willingness to give players with off-the-field issues another chance.
“People forget these guys are just kids,” Flores said Saturday. “I remember being a 21-, 22-, 23-year-old, and I didn’t make the best decisions. We’ve got to teach these young people. That’s our job as coaches and educators and leaders. We’re doing that Preston and all our rookies and young players, and even our vets as well.”
The 6-foot-5, 218-pound Williams thought he was the best receiver in the draft, but said he’s not bitter about being passed over.
“Everything is an opportunity, and it doesn’t matter if you’re drafted in the first round or undrafted,” he said. “Everybody’s got the same opportunity, so that’s how I look at it.”
He’s taking full advantage. All of his catches in Miami’s win over Atlanta came on throws from Josh Rosen, who happened to be Williams’ teammate at a 7-on-7 camp in Oregon when both were in high school.
The spotlight is a bit brighter now.
“When my number was called, I just wanted to answer,” Williams said.
“Preston,” Rosen said, “can go get the ball.”
Williams’ receptions made TV highlights and the stadium elevator, and he also earned praise for less glamorous assignments, including on special teams.
“He played tough, he played physical, he blocked in the run game,” Flores said. “He wanted to make his presence felt obviously from a receiving standpoint, but really in all phases.
“But one good game doesn’t make you a superstar. This league is all about consistency. I don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves with Preston. He’s got a long way to go.”
Before Williams becomes a No. 1 target, he must make the roster, and receiver is perhaps the Dolphins’ deepest position. His next chance to make his case will come in Tampa, where the Dolphins will practice at midweek against the Buccaneers and then play them Friday.
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