Heading into the 2009 NFL Draft, it was unclear whether Idaho fullback Eddie Williams would be a late-round selection or would begin his career as an undrafted free agent. He had established himself as a pass catcher his senior season, catching 54 passes for 687 yards and six touchdowns as a tight end. Yet most saw the 6-1, 249-pounder as a fullback or H-back in the NFL. He tore his ACL his senior year, so there were injury concerns as well.
The Washington Redskins ended the suspense by drafting Williams in the seventh round, 221st overall. He was signed to the team's practice squad a few months later and was activated to the roster in early November 2009, yet broke his left leg in practice a few weeks after.
The Redskins waived Williams before the start of the 2010 season and the Chicago Bears scooped him a week later. He again spent last season on the practice squad.
FB Eddie Williams
This year though, Williams looks like he's been shot out of a cannon. Finally fully healthy, he made his presence felt in Bourbonnais. He's a big hitter who enjoys leading into the hole and taking on linebackers. He also has soft hands and has served well as a check-down outlet in the flats.
In last Saturday's preseason contest against the Bills, Williams delivered a number of hard hits. The play that stood out most came on a second-quarter draw to Marion Barber. Williams led through the hole and made an outstanding block on LB Reggie Torbor, upending the defender and sending him to the ground. Barber ran for 12 yards on that play.
I asked Williams about that first opportunity to get out on the game field and put a real hit on someone.
"It's nice. We can't cut block in practice. Going against some of our linebackers, our guys, we want to take care of our people," Williams said. "So once you get in the game, you can let loose. It's fun. That's what football is all about. Actually going to battle and doing the things that you have to, by any means necessary."
He said that, along with being fully healthy, his growth as a player has been the main reason he's been able to take the next step this season.
"I feel a little bit more under control," said Williams. "The last few years I've probably been a bit more raw. But other than that I'm developing strength-wise and technique-wise."
I asked him if he felt he should be the team's starter heading into the season.
"I'm doing what the coaches are telling me to do at this point," he said. "If they like what they see, they like what they see."
Even though he's never started in an NFL game before, Williams said he's ready for the challenge, especially working in an offense run by coordinator Mike Martz.
"It's a fun offense to be in because the backs are going to be involved a lot. We're going to catch a lot of balls and that's fun," he said. "Blocking just comes with the game, everything else, catching the ball and running the ball, that's awesome. Fullbacks, we don't get our carries very much, so it's nice to be in an offense where we're involved a lot."
The three long weeks he spent in Bourbonnais this year are finally over but Williams feels it was time well spent.
"It's actually been a long grind but it's over with," he said. "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I'm enjoying myself."
Williams' only roster competition has come from Will Ta'ufo'ou, who hasn't been nearly as impressive. Barring injury, expect Williams to be a vital part of the Bears' run game this season.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.