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Former Vandals’ star learns the ropes with the Redskins
By David Driver
Photo credit: Ned Dishman
Eddie Williams is living in a part of the country where he had never been, and a long way from his Idaho and West Coast roots. And, he is in his first year in a high-pressure profession, trying to make a name for himself as a rookie in the National Football League with the Washington Redskins.
But those priorities have not stopped Williams from following the upbeat fortunes of his former college team.
"All of the time. Of course I do," said Williams, when asked if he keeps tabs on the Idaho football team, who won six of its first seven games this season. "It is good to see some of the young guys starting to play well. It is good to see (the team) playing well, like they are capable of."
Williams, who lives in northern Virginia, bought a television package so he could watch the Vandals' games. He keeps in touch with several current players, including quarterback Nathan Enderle.
"I think the defense is playing better," said Williams, sitting in front of his locker at Redskins Park in Ashburn, Va., following a recent morning practice. "They are over-achieving. They are playing a lot better than what they are on paper. What is on paper does not matter. They are winning. Hey, we are ready to play. It is nice to see."
The irony is that Idaho struggled to field a winning team while Williams was in the program. And the California product played for three head coaches while in Moscow.
"It was tough. With every turnover in coaches we lost a lot of players. We didn't grow together," he said. "We were not real cohesive. I think that led to why we lost a lot."
Williams said he was the only skill-position player left in his class by the time he was a senior. So did the change in coaches hurt his stock as a potential pro player?
"I would say it was good and bad. You don't get to go to a bowl game. But I went through a lot of systems. I got to do a lot," he said.
Williams was able to play tight end, fullback and H-back during his college career, and that versatility can be valuable to pro teams.
“It is a blessing to be drafted,” said Williams, who is overcoming a knee injury suffered during the 2008 season. He was drafted by the Redskins in the seventh round in 2009 and has been a backup fullback as a member of the practice squad this season.
“Basically you do the exact same thing as everyone else does, we just don’t play,” Williams said of being on the practice squad. “It is your livelihood. You never know what can happen. You want to make sure you are doing everything you can. You want to make sure you play at a high level or they will replace you.” The Washington Redskins announced on Nov. 2 that they Williams to their 53-man roster.
Williams caught 100 passes for 1,205 yards and 11 touchdowns during his career at Idaho. He also ran the ball 19 times for 195 yards and three touchdowns. He was the offensive player of the year in 2008. A communication studies major who graduated last spring, he earned Idaho’s John Friesz Most Valuable Player Award at the team’s annual banquet after the 2008 season.
He is not the only former Idaho star to join the Redskins organization. Former offensive lineman Mark Schlereth played for Washington during his NFL career and now works as a commentator for ESPN. “I met him once a long time ago when he showed up at Idaho. He is a cool guy,” said Williams, who is listed at 6-foot-1, 249 pounds. “I never knew at the time I would be playing for the Redskins.”
His goal, of course, is to be one day be added to the 53-man active roster of Washington, who lost four of its first six games in 2009. “I have one of the best opportunities in the league at my position. I get to work with a Pro Bowl guy,” Williams said of learning from starting fullback Mike Sellers. “I feel like I am in a good situation. I am learning from one of the best. This is a nice opportunity. I am really excited about it. I have to get better every day.”
While in the nation’s capital, he has visited the Lincoln Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery. He drove by the White House during Memorial Day weekend.
“I did not go in. I got caught up in traffic. That was not a good idea to go during Memorial Day weekend,” he said.
Such are some of the adjustments that need to be made for a Vandal who is a long way from home.