Home / The Game / Darious Williams, the Rams’ ‘other’ cornerback, has been a revelation – Orange County Register

Darious Williams, the Rams’ ‘other’ cornerback, has been a revelation – Orange County Register

Darious Williams had barely taken his interception across the Seattle goal line when Bill Clark grabbed his cellphone.

“You’re the real-est, too,” Clark texted.

That was a reply to Williams’ text to Clark, the UAB head coach, when the Blazers had beaten Marshall. Williams had congratulated Clark for being the “real-est” that day.

“I was laughing about that,” Clark said. “You know, you have to keep up with the things they say.”

Clark knew Williams was real long before the NFL did, long before Williams had begun teaching the league’s quarterbacks to be careful for what they wish.

As they avoid All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey like an eye-damaging eclipse, they throw to the other side and inadvertently make Williams famous. He had four interceptions in the regular season, the most on the Rams, and then made that brazen move to ruin a bubble screen and take the interception 42 yards, a major ingredient in the Rams’ 30-20 victory.

Pro Football Focus ranks the Rams’ secondary No. 1 in the league and ranks Williams fourth and Ramsey seventh in coverage among cornerbacks.

But Sunday’s play dwarfs all others. Williams saw the play so quickly that he blasted through Freddie Swaim, the blocker, and took Russell Wilson’s throw in stride (the third time he intercepted Wilson this season). Not even DK Metcalf could run him down.

“He returned one like that for us against Southern Mississippi in 2017, just a mirror-image play,” Clark said. “He’s been playing press coverage for a long time. I used to get irritated when they said he was raw. Obviously, he’s not 6-foot-2 (he’s 5-9) but he’s got long arms, he’s so good with the ball in the air. I thought he was a major miss when he didn’t get drafted.”

Williams, for his part, says he never lost hope on the careening curves of his journey. “That’s just part of my faith in Jesus,” he said.

But he was ignored as a high school player in Jacksonville and wound up at Marietta College in Ohio. He came back quickly and attended Florida State College-Jacksonville, a two-year school that didn’t have football.

He wanted to try out at UAB but was told there was no room. He tried again the next year. Defensive backs coach Blake Shrader was there.

“We had a walk-on camp and it was quickly a no-brainer,” Shrader said. “He’s just got weird ball skills.”

“It was funny, the whole thing was over in 20 minutes,” Williams said. “It started at 7:30 a.m. and by 7:50 I was already texting home I wasn’t sure how they could evaluate me. They set up these four cones and we made our breaks, and I caught a couple of balls.”

As Shrader said, Williams “started rising up the depth chart” from there. Then the chart, and everything else, went into the shredder. A brutal political clash meant the end of UAB’s football program.

Most players left. “But I didn’t have enough film to go other places and try to compete against starters,” Williams said. “And I was coming off left labrum shoulder surgery. I knew I had to take time to rehab it.”

Williams went back to junior college and began working. One of the jobs was delivering flowers. “Jacksonville’s pretty big, so if you make four deliveries your shift can be just about over,” he said.

Then UAB got its program back. Williams was one of a handful to return.

“They gave me a shot from Day One,” Williams said. “So I felt like loyalty to them was the biggest thing.”

The Blazers resumed play two years later and Williams played in ’17 and ’18, intercepting 11 passes, playing in two bowl games and making Pro Football Focus’ analytics-based first All-America team.

Then draft day came and went without as much of a petal, much less a bouquet.

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