Trying to Beat the Odds

Chris Williams has a very simple way of describing himself as a football player: "I'm fast and small, but I've got a big heart and I like to make plays." The rookie free agent made some plays for the Dolphins in the preseason opener, but he'll need to make several more plays if he hopes to beat the odds and make the Dolphins' 53-man roster.

Williams handled all the punt and kickoff returns against Jacksonville Monday night, and Coach Tony Sparano indicated it was possible the same scenario would occur Saturday when the Dolphins play host to the Carolina Panthers.

Sparano's logic is sound: He already knows what kind of punt returner Davone Bess and what kind of kickoff returner Ted Ginn Jr., so why not take as many looks as possible at a new player?

For Williams, this represents a great opportunity to show he can play in the NFL despite standing only 5-7.

His lack of height is why Williams went undrafted in April despite a tremendous college career at New Mexico State that saw him earn All-American honors not once but twice.

"This is a show-me business," Williams said. "You've got to show up and do it day in and day out, game in and game out. I'm just thankful for the opportunity and will try not to disappoint anybody."

Williams certainly didn't disappoint against Jacksonville when he averaged 31.8 yards on four kickoff returns with a long of 41 yards and also had a nifty 27-yard punt return -- although it was wiped out when Vontae Davis was flagged for blocking a Jacksonville player out of bounds, a move that obviously had nothing to do with Williams' return.

As it stands right now, Williams remains a long shot to make the roster because there are just too many receivers on the roster who appear ahead of him.

Heading into the Carolina game, it would seem that Ginn, Bess, Greg Camarillo and draft picks Patrick Turner and Brian Hartline are locks to make the roster, and the Dolphins certainly aren't going to keep more than six wide receivers.

That means that Williams would have to beat out Anthony Armstrong, James Robinson and Brandon London to make the team.

Williams' ticket to the roster clearly comes from showing the Dolphins he can be a difference-maker as a returner, although it wouldn't hurt if he could contribute as a receiver as well.

"It would be a nice luxury down the road if you are making that choice," Sparano said. "In other words, if we make that choice that down the road that Chris would be on the team for special teams purposes, we would hope that he would also be able to play receiver in ballgames and help us that way. That would be a good luxury to have, but not a necessity to whether or not he makes the team."

Williams' night against Jacksonville got off to a shaky start when he bobbled the first punt he fielded and later caught a punt at the 4-yard line before proceeding to get tackled at the 1. But he came on in a big way after that.

"For the most part, I felt Chris did a pretty nice job out there," Sparano said. "He was explosive, I mean, I think everybody, you could see that."

That's just what the Dolphins saw when they looked at tape of Williams before the draft.

Even though they didn't spend a draft pick on him, they were quick to get in touch with him after the draft. Williams said about a half-dozen teams called to offer a contract after he went undrafted.

"It's an interesting story, but it's a lot like Davone Bess," Sparano said, referring to Bess also joining the Dolphins as an undrafted rookie free agent. "One of our scouts brought film in on Chris, and we got a chance to watch it. Of course, you know, prototype-wise, size-wise, any of those things, he doesn't meet that. OK, speed-wise he meets it. But other than that, he doesn't really meet the prototype. So a couple days before the draft, we had a pretty good peek at him as a group and, you know, we seen a ton of run-after-catch yards, a lot of big plays. I mean, his film is really a joke [laughter] when you watch it, I mean, it really was.

"At the end of the draft, our guys did a tremendous job and being able to talk with him and his people about an opportunity here. And I think the kid sees this as being only really a one-year program right now from where we were and I thought there might be opportunity."

That's all Williams ever wanted, was an opportunity.

He's been told all his life he was too small to succeed, but that didn't stop him from being a big-time player in high school and in college.

He's hoping it will be more of the same in the NFL — once again proving he's not too small to succeed.

"You know, I've been hearing it my whole life," he said. "I faze it out right now. I'm here, and that's all that matters."


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