Andre Williams adapts to pro football
Andre Williams knew he had to adjust his running style when he was drafted in the fourth round by the New York Giants this year.
The former Parkland High School and Boston College player rambled his way to fame in a straight-ahead, bulldozing style that gained him notoriety as only the 16th player in NCAA history to rush for more than 2,000 yards and a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.
Williams did open some eyes when he had flashes during the preseason, but he realized the toils and challenges of an NFL career late in the preseason and also in the early part of the regular season. Still, Williams averaged 5.1 yards per carry during the preseason. His success quickly projected him into the team's backfield.
"This is a real process," said Williams recently. "The game here is much faster and harder than in college. It didn't take me long to realize that it is harder to do the same things that I used to do.
"With the Giants, I had to change my running style a bit. In this offense, it is more about timing than anything else. It is more about being in the right place at the right time. I quickly found out that I have to work harder than I have ever had in my career."
He recently had another opportunity when starter and lead back Rashad Jennings went down with a sprained MCL three weeks ago.
As a result, Williams will get another raised curtain to show his stock as a starter for the fourth straight week. But the 230-pound running back understands life in the big show may take some time. Through the team's first seven games, Williams has rushed for 241 yards on 70 carries for a 3.1 average, and he has two runs over 20 yards.
"I have had great support from the coaches and teammates," he said. "Rashad (Jennings) has been a great help to me and he has really let me know what football at this level is all about. Our offensive line works very hard and they are starting to come together. It is really about getting my timing down and looking to see the holes more out there.
"Sometimes the holes are there and sometimes they are not. There are times when I missed the hole and I have to try and make something out of nothing. I know that is all part of the process."
Running back coach Craig Johnson has the same assessment as his budding back.
"Younger players like him tend to be in a hurry trying to get out of the backfield," said Johnson. "It is really about being patient and trying to get in unison with the timing and rhythm of the line. It is really about being patient.
"We know he had the ability and the talent. Andre is very aggressive and that can be a good thing. He has shown flashes of being a good back. He has to keep working."
Williams, who likely will have more than 40 people in the stands from the Lehigh Valley Monday night, appreciates the constant support from his family. The close proximity to his hometown and a revolving maturation as a running back in the NFL has proved to be a perfect combination.
"So far, this has been a dream come true," said Williams. "It's great playing close to home. I know I have to keep working on my strength, speed, and technique and it will come together for me."