Snapshot: Travis Williams

As we do every year at this time, presents its Snapshot series of features on the Steelers' rookies. Today: Travis Williams.

There's no doubt that cornerback Travis Williams is an excellent athlete.

In case anybody wondered about that, the cornerback ran a 4.45-second 40-yard dash, bench pressed 225 pounds 16 times and had a 33 1/2-inch vertical jump at his pro day at East Carolina.

But Williams, who signed as an undrafted free agent with the Pittsburgh Steelers following the NFL draft, is also smart.

How smart?

When his new position coach with the Steelers, Ray Horton, suggested he use a cheat sheet during the team's offseason workouts, Williams didn't hesitate.

On more than one occasion, Williams would be checking out his cheat sheet as he ran out to his corner position – or even as the ball was snapped – only to run stride for stride down the field and break up a pass.

It was a common occurrence.

"I've got a little cheat sheet and coach told me if I was smart, that's what I'd do," Williams said. "I made that happen, ASAP. If I'm not sure, I can just look down and see it. It helps me get a better understanding and I can play at 100 percent."

At 100 percent, the 5-9, 185-pound Williams looks pretty good.

And at East Carolina, he was pretty good. Williams ranked fourth on the Pirates in tackles in 2007 with 56 tackles. He also caused one fumble, intercepted a pass and deflected three others.

But as the lone senior in East Carolina's secondary last season, Williams wasn't tested a lot, which may have hurt his draft status.

"It was a crazy draft this year. My junior year I had a fifth-round grade from the advisory," Williams said. "Then my senior year, I didn't even get invited to the combine. I had a pretty decent season. I didn't have a lot of balls thrown my way and therefore not a lot of opportunities. I ran a good 40 and I benched good. The only thing I can say is that everything happens for a reason."

Oh, did we mention that Williams is also an accomplished return man?

He ranks second in school history with a 13.3 average on punt returns and also holds the single season record at 17.7 set in his sophomore season when he was fourth in the nation in that statistic. He also returned some kickoffs and the Steelers will look at him at both positions.

That's why he wasn't all that upset when he wasn't drafted. Williams spurned offers from four other teams to join the Steelers, who he had the inside scoop on.

"Willie Parker is a good friend of mine," Williams said of the Steelers' running back. "We're always talking. He told me to work hard and make the most of my position. That's just how I'm looking at it. I'm not being complacent. I'm working hard every day.

"His agent was recruiting me my junior year and he gave me Willie's number as a reference. I talked to him and we hit it off when we first talked. I met up with him after that and we hung out."

Through Parker, who made the Steelers as an undrafted rookie himself, Williams learned that it doesn't matter how you get to the NFL, it's what you do when you get there that counts.

It's a lesson Williams doesn't need a cheat sheet for.

"(Parker) tells me that every day. He says, ‘Look at me, everybody was doubting me every day. People that knew me knew I could get it done.' That's my thing," Williams said. "Everybody that knows me knows I can get it done. I've got great ball skills, great return skills. One thing about the NFL, coaches know talent. I'm just grateful for the opportunity."

Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.

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