Ryan Williams had bet on himself, and the reward would come during his senior season.
As a true freshman in 2010, Williams started the final 10 games for Memphis, completing 56.9 percent of his passes for 2,075 yards with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Miami, however, is where Williams wanted to play. After all, he was the star quarterback at Miramar (Fla.) High School. As a senior, he broke Tim Tebow’s record with five touchdown passes in the state championship game as he led Miramar to its first state championship.
“Growing up, I wanted to play for Miami,” Williams said a few days before his predraft visit with the Green Bay Packers. “It was always my dream. I wanted to play at Miami and that’s where I wanted to further my career.”
After sitting out 2011 due to NCAA transfer rules and spending 2012 and 2013 behind Stephen Morris, 2014 would be Williams’ turn.
Instead, his dreams came crashing down when he tumbled to the turf with a torn ACL during an April scrimmage.
“It was kind of like a ‘Why?’ kind of moment. ‘Why is this happening now? Why is this happening to me?’” Williams said. “But I got over it really quick. I had to focus on getting healthy instead of focusing on why I’m hurt. I wanted to play that first game, so really the whole offseason I was worried about getting healthy and getting ready to play that first game.”
Williams set an audacious goal: be ready for the Hurricanes’ season-opening game against Louisville — less than five months after the injury.
“I didn’t have time to be negative or be down,” Williams said.
This story, however, doesn’t have a happy ending. True freshman Brad Kaaya won the starting job and got the call against Louisville. By the time Williams stopped wearing his knee brace in late October or early November, Kaaya was entrenched in the lineup.
For the season, Williams threw just one pass. After throwing 290 passes at Memphis, he threw 53 passes for the Hurricanes.
Williams’ college career might have been done but his NFL dreams weren’t out. He was picked for the Medal of Honor Bowl. Despite the lack of playing time, Williams had a good week of practice and transferred it into the game, earning MVP honors by going 7-of-15 for 115 yards and one touchdown.
“It was huge,” Williams said. “It gave the scouts some film from this year to be able to evaluate me and look at my abilities. It was more of a stepping stone to finally get on the field and run plays and play in an actual game instead of practice.”
The next step on his path to the NFL was Miami’s pro day on April 1. After having dinner the night before with Packers scouts, Williams turned in a strong workout. At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Williams ran his 40 in 4.95 seconds and turned in an excellent positional workout.
“I thought pro day was good,” Williams said. “I ran good times, so I proved to scouts and the coaches that were out there that my knee’s healthy and it’s not bothering me anymore and it doesn’t affect any of my movement. I thought I threw it pretty good, too, and a bunch of scouts were happy with how I threw.”
Next, the NFL beckons. In a weak quarterback draft, there’s a chance Williams could sneak into the seventh round. More likely, he’ll be a priority free agent with several offers to consider. Williams might not have done much as a senior from a stats perspective, but he said he proved he’s a “winner” by how he poured his heart and soul into attempting a remarkable comeback from a serious injury. He was such a good mentor to Kaaya that the freshman called Williams a “second coach.”
Wherever he lands, Williams, who is married and the father of a boy who’s about eight-and-a-half months old, is eager to start the next chapter of his career.
“Definitely a new beginning,” he said. “I started off college as a starter and transferred and had to sit behind Stephen and then I got hurt and never actually got the chance to play after that, so I’m excited to start over with a new team and kind of work my way up in the NFL.”
Considering what happened just more than one year ago, what’s going to happen in just more than two weeks will be unforgettable.
“It’s really going to be like a dream accomplished,” he said. “You’ve done all of this work and now it’s finally happening. It’s going to be a relief and really a great accomplishment.”
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