Dom Williams, Washington State’s starting X receiver last season, finished the year strong but is considered a fringe NFL prospect. Williams hopes to change that during WSU’s pro day on Thursday.
At the end of last season, after he shed his sweaty Washington State jersey for the final time, hoisted the Sun Bowl trophy with his teammates and posed for photos, Dom Williams hugged Gabe Marks and said, “Keep it going.”
The Sun Bowl win stands as one of Williams’ fondest memories from his five-year career at WSU. By all accounts, Williams’ senior season was a success. He accumulated 1,040 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns on 75 catches, and finished the year strong in honor of his grandmother, who died on Oct. 4, the day after WSU played California.
The Cougars’ starting X receiver finished with 2,889 career receiving yards – behind only Marquess Wilson in the WSU record book – and 30 touchdowns, second to Jason Hill (32) on the all-time receiving touchdowns list.
But as he preps for the Cougars’ pro day on Thursday and looks back on his college playing days, Williams realizes he has one regret.
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“I wish I would have had more fun with it,” Williams said. “I took it extremely seriously. I wasn’t like Marcellus (Pippins) jumping around showing off my dance moves and stuff.”
Pippins, one of the Cougars’ two returning starting cornerbacks, is known for his exuberance on the field and on the sideline.
“The fun-wise, I held back a little. I had high expectations of myself,” Williams said. “I’m close with Marcellus, and I told him: ‘Keep on dancing. Have fun.’ Once you get too uptight in this game, you’re worrying about too many things.”
That perspective is something Williams has cultivated in the last couple of months while training for pro day at Tracy Ford’s Ford Sports Performance facility in Bellevue, and from his experience at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in January, when he got to know Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver Andre Reed.
Reed coached one of the team’s receivers during the week, and Williams jumped at the chance to pick the brain of a seven-time Pro Bowler.
“I took so much stuff from him. I was a sponge,” Williams said. “I thought I got on his nerves asking so many questions, but he loved it.”
Along with helping Williams refine his mechanics – for instance, he harped constantly on the importance of securing a ball before a receiver should turn his head – Reed also left Williams with two main takeaways.
He preached attention to detail, encouraging Williams to learn every single receiver position because as far as NFL teams are concerned, versatility increases every player’s value.
But he also told Williams to maintain his belief in himself and not worry about what anyone else thought.
“He told me, ‘Just be patient and don’t get down on yourself,’” Williams said. “He said, ‘You’re going to get yelled at, people are going to criticize you and talk bad about mistakes you’ve made, stuff like that.’
“You can’t get down on yourself because only you can control your attitude to the game.”
That’s the attitude Williams is taking into his pro day. He knows most analysts see him as a fringe prospect with slim draft chances.
“I’d be surprised if he’s drafted,” said ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. “If he runs a surprisingly good 40 at his pro day, he gets bumped to the seventh round. Otherwise, I have him going as a free agent.
“He’s had a lot of balls thrown his way. With some teams, he’ll be a fifth receiver.”
But Williams has tuned out all the noise. He’s spent the last two months training hard for an NFL shot, and he knows this pro day is his audition.
He doesn’t care which team he ends up with or what receiver position he’s asked to play. Williams just wants a chance to extend his career and keep playing football. And if he’s lucky enough to earn his chance in the NFL, he just might take a page out of Pippins’ book and do a little more dancing.
After all, his playing days won’t last forever.