He was the Vikings' final draft selection on April 29, and his claim to fame then was being part of a Florida International football team best known for being involved in a melee with the more recognizable Miami Hurricanes team.
Yet, there are seniors with the Hurricanes last year who don't have an NFL contract while Chandler Williams, former FIU standout, is still holding onto his for dear life. The step from Florida International to the NFL is more like a Paul Bunyan leap, but Williams is trying to make the most of his opportunity this offseason and has witnessed his own progress, according to an interview he did with Viking Update earlier this month.
"Actually I am moving up. Last week I didn't really know my plays, but now as we're meeting everyday and I'm getting into my playbook every day, I'm knowing more plays," said the quick wide receiver. "By me knowing more plays, coach has the confidence to put me in more plays in practice because he knows I know what I'm doing. I see my reps going up almost every day. Hopefully that continues."
The competition is steep, with 11 receivers now in line for what will probably be six active roster spots. It's a new set of circumstances for a player who used to be a big frog in a small Florida swamp.
"I've never been in a situation like this. This is the NFL, though. I knew coming into it that there was going to be competition, whereas like in college or high school most of the time I was the best player on the team. Coming into the NFL, everybody is good, so we just come out here and compete every day for a job."
A year ago, not many Minnesota Vikings fans had ever heard of Chandler Williams, although they may have caught his name in passing on a sports update as one of several players suspended for their involvement in that widely rebroadcast video of the fight between FIU and Miami. From now on, Williams is hoping he is noticed by Vikings fans for a successful fight to make the roster and contribute in some meaningful way.
Even current Vikings receivers admit that they've heard their position was the weak spot of the team last year. Since March 2006, the Vikings have lost Nate Burleson, Koren Robinson and Marcus Robinson to various circumstances. Now, since March 2007, the team has been working to add to the receiving corps through a variety of methods.
Free agency brought Bobby Wade, Cortez Hankton and Todd Lowber, along with recently released Maurice Mann, Randy Hymes and Paris Hamilton. The draft enabled the Vikings to add three more to the corps.
"As soon as they drafted me, I logged onto the Internet just to see how many receivers they had and who I had to compete against. So I just come in here and try to make the team any way possible, be it special teams, receiver, whatever they want me to do I'll do it," Williams said.
"I knew that (they drafted three receivers). It meant something: I guess they needed receivers. You don't draft three receivers if you don't need it."
What the Vikings drafted in Williams was a player who set the FIU record with 203 receptions and was second for career receiving yards with 2,519. To date, he has shown good hands and has been used in a variety of ways with the second- and third-team offenses during practices that were open to the media.
Now the challenge for him is trying to absorb a playbook much bigger than he's accustomed to from his days as a Golden Panther.
"It's so much more now, and I thought it was hard then," Williams said. "But there is so much more now that I have to learn. It's coming along, but coach said he knows I'm not going to come out here and know all my plays already. He's working with me and I'm just progressing every day.
"(The FIU playbook was) not that big at all. It was college, so I guess the coaches simplified it to where everybody would know it well, whereas here they expect you to know it and more than one position."
He's been working on the offense while trying to investigate the possibility that using his return abilities will increase his chances of making the team. His quickness led him to six punt returns for a formidable 15-yard average in college, and he was used more on kickoff returns, where he averaged 20.8 yards on 26 returns.
Despite being a smaller receiver (5-foot-11, 184 pounds), he views his quickness as an advantage to make up for what he lacks in physical stature.
When asked what separates him from the other receivers on the field, he replied, "My quickness off the ball and speed. I like to get pressed because bigger corners just think they're going to come to the line and manhandle me, but I know that I'm probably most likely quicker than them and probably faster than them, so at times I'll probably get jammed, but I think I'll win that most of the time.
"Really, down there, I was going off of raw athletic ability, where here I'm getting coaching and we're not even running routes. We do more cone drills than anything and I think that really helps me because I'm coming in and out of my routes at the same speed. So with me doing that and the speed I have, I think it's hard for a corner to cover me one-on-one."
NFL New Experience for WR Williams
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