Meet the New-ish Steeler—RB Trey Williams
AP Photo/ Don Wright
Trey Williams is short. Not just short for an NFL player—short for anyone. He is 5’7″, which is just about 14″ shorter than Alejandro Villanueva. The next shortest men on the roster at the moment are 2″ taller than Williams. But he packs a lot into his 200-pound frame.
He was a high school star in Texas, a state in which high school football is practically sacred. During his three high school seasons at running back he rushed for over 8000 yards on 935 carries, and had 86 touchdowns. His senior season alone he had over 400 carries. That’s one tough dude. (He was a wide receiver his freshman season.)
Williams was recruited by many top programs and chose to go with the one closest to home, Texas A&M. He had a productive career there, but never quite lived up to the promise of that senior season. He declared early for the draft and received a combine invite. He was interviewed for an article about the value of the combine, an article which began with Bill Belichick’s grumpy comments:
I think that’s a huge mistake that a lot of those players make, but I’m sure they have their reasons for doing it…We’re training our players to play football, not to go through a bunch of those February drills. Yeah, our training is football intensive.
This is all very well for the Myles Garretts of the college crop, but Trey Williams’ perspective was very different—the combine gave him a chance to show what he could do for teams that may not have had him on their radar:
It’s relevant because it’s a challenge, to see how you are…It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience…and it’s a really good test of your character.
The author, Brandon Howard [Sports Talk Florida] quoted Williams’ advice to the new crop of Combine hopefuls:
Just keep fighting no matter what. Keep fighting no matter how hard it gets for you, because at the end of the day, all the guys that you see on Sundays, they did it too. If they can do it, you can do it too.
This is of course the big question about Williams—can he do it? Since going undrafted in 2015 he has had a go at it with almost a quarter of the teams in the NFL—first with Washington, who put him on their practice squad. The Cowboys pinched him and then released him after the obligatory two weeks. Bill Belichick picked him up for the practice squad, and he was later released. Miami then signed him, and after them the Colts. With the Colts he actually got two carries in a game, gaining 12 yards. Nice average for his NFL career…
This was all during the 2015 season. He was out of football for 2016 as his father had brain surgery which precipitated a stroke.
And now he is with the Steelers, at least for another week and a half or so. What has he shown so far to merit a place on the 53-man roster?
Perhaps you all noticed the little guy taking a punt return to the house last Sunday. That would be Williams. During the return he displayed the shiftiness mentioned in his NFL Draft Profile:
Features a devastating jump-cut that torments defenders in space. On of the best “make-you-miss” types in this draft. Improvisation-oriented athlete in space. Able to change directions at a moment’s notice and multiple times during on play.
This “make-you-miss” ability was not a recent development for Williams, as reported in a 2015 SI story by Ben Glicksman. After describing his escape artistry as a toddler, Glicksman tells the following story:
[3-year-old] Trey wanted [older brother] Philip to fix him a PB&J. Philip, then 15, wanted Trey to earn it. So Philip came up with a plan…
“I was like, O.K., if you wanna get something to eat, all you gotta do is run into the kitchen without letting [6 year old brother] Tyson knock you down…I handed Tyson a pillow and said, ‘Tyson, when he tries to run in there you just knock him down.'”
Little Trey bolted from the living room toward the kitchen. Tyson planted his feet and braced for impact. Then Trey did something he would do countless times over the coming years, something that became the stuff of legend in the Williams family. He deked tyson, improbably pirouetting to his destination. “The dude hit me with like an in-and-out spin move,” Tyson says. “It was so quick I couldn’t do nothing.”
It’s a fun article. Do check it out.
However, there’s always a down side, as also noted in the NFL Draft Profile.
Very slightly built runner. More of an “offensive weapon” than a true running back…Can’t break tackles and churn out extra yardage. When defenses get hands on him, the play is over. Too small to be factor as pass blocker…
That was in 2015. Williams has put on five pounds and, at least according to Dale Lolley, looked pretty good in pads:
The old saying claims it’s not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog that matters.
Steelers running back Trey Williams lives by that mantra.
The Steelers do more live tacking in camp than most NFL teams and Williams hasn’t backed down from it. When he gets hit hard, it only seems to get him more motivated. Last week when he was sandwiched by a pair of safeties, he immediately hopped up, spike the ball and screamed “Let’s go.”
But Williams has another skill, one which might make him a perfect fit with Le’Veon Bell—he’s a pretty darn good singer. Check out the singing competition from the Liberty Bowl. YouTube wouldn’t let me shorten it, so the applicable portion begins at about 1:50 in:
Whether there will be a spot found for him almost certainly depends on what he is able to do in the next two games. But for now he’s reveling in being in the Black and Gold:
I feel I have a great fit here with the Steelers. I wouldn’t want to be with any other organization.
Those teams missed out. I’m here now. That’s the beautiful part of it. I’m with the Pittsburgh Steelers and I’m going to give them my all.
Here’s hoping his all is enough, and he retires as a legendary punt returner. As Glicksman said at the end of his article,
From the crib to the combine, Williams has found himself in plenty of tough situations before. He has a knack for maneuvering his way out.
It’s difficult to maneuver your way out of a pure numbers game. But with his drive and determination, he surely has a chance. And if it doesn’t work out, it’s hard to think he won’t succeed in “life after football,” whenever that may begin.