In the second week of the 2016 NCAA football season, FCS Grambling State, from the Southwestern Athletic Conference, went to Tucson and nearly knocked off the Pac-12’s Arizona Wildcats.
They didn’t, of course, falling by a score of 31-21.
On Tuesday, Grambling State coach Broderick Fobbs told Doug and Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station that it’s not a game they like talking about because they felt like they should have won, which would have been a real possibility had QB Devante Kincade not left the game to an injury.
In fact, the visitors took a 21-3 lead into the half, and were competitive throughout in large part because of receiver Chad Williams. Williams, who caught 13 passes for 152 yards that night, was the Arizona Cardinals’ third-round draft pick last Friday.
The Cardinals did not pick Williams because he torched the Wildcats — let’s be honest, most receivers did last season as in 2016 Arizona allowed 275.2 passing yards per game, second-worst in the Pac-12 ahead of only Arizona State (357.4) — but in some ways it was likely a bit of a coming out party for the small-school star.
“Chad was very, very dominant,” Fobbs said. “Just a dynamic football player and really, really made his mark out there in that particular football game.”
It was all part of a senior season in which Williams caught 90 passes for 1,337 yards and 11 scores, numbers that led the SWAC and led to him being an FCS All-American selection.
At 6-foot-1 and 204 pounds he has good size for the position, and his pro day — which included him posting a 35.5-inch vertical, 21 bench press reps and a 40-yard dash time of 4.37 seconds — indicate he has plenty of athletic ability, too.
But not playing for a power-five program meant fewer eyes were on him on a weekly basis, though the Cardinals have shown in the past they are not afraid to pluck players from lesser-known schools.
“A guy that a lot of people don’t know about, probably wouldn’t be an Arizona Cardinals draft if we didn’t take a small school guy particularly in the third round,” GM Steve Keim said of picking Williams 98th overall.
Williams, who finished his college career with 210 receptions, 3,062 yards and 28 touchdowns, lasted that long, Fobbs believes, because some teams get caught up with the level of competition a prospect faced.
“They don’t necessarily evaluate the player, and I think Arizona did an exceptional job of evaluating the player and his measurables, his ability level and his psyche for the football game,” he said. “So I think they’re getting a heck of a player; he’s going to do everything in his power to be a success and try to bring a championship to the Arizona Cardinals.”
Given their current receiver situation, the Cardinals are not likely to ask too much of Williams early in his career. But they are excited about his potential, with Keim praising his tools, passion and “want-to.”
However, if there is one red flag with Williams besides lesser competition, it is an off-the-field incident prior to his senior season, in which he was arrested for marijuana and possession of a firearm.
Fobbs suspended Williams for the team’s season opener, but that was the extent of the punishment. The charges were eventually dismissed, and Williams said he told teams the truth, that it was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and will never happen again.
The Cardinals were comfortable with the answer and player, coming away with the impression that “he is actually a really good kid,” according to head coach Bruce Arians.
For Fobbs, it was important to note it was the first troublesome situation Williams had found himself in at Grambling State.
“I knew it had to be a situation where you were dealing with a young kid that had gone off to college, and a couple of his friends that were elementary and middle school friends had kind of maybe gotten into some things that he didn’t know about, and when he was coming back home he was basically wanting to hang out with his old friends,” he said. “And didn’t realize some of the issues that they were involved in.
“I think it definitely opened his eyes of how sensitive and how quickly this thing can turn for the worse for you, and it’s probably one of the better things that’s ever happened to him because now he’s on guard in every situation. He doesn’t even want to go to McDonald’s without knowing who’s going to be there.”
Fobbs said the incident might have actually been a good thing, because it has allowed Williams to understand that he has a future but has to be careful about who he hangs with.
“Even people who were old friends back in the day are not necessarily off limits from being a problem for you nowadays,” he said.
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