Former Comet prepares for 2020 NFL Draft with virtual day

Published 5:20 pm Monday, April 13, 2020

In the time of social distancing combined with the ability to instantly share a video of one’s talents worldwide, one former North Stanly Comet found a unique way to show what he can do.

Antonio Williams, the all-time rushing yardage leader at North Stanly, recently posted videos of him showing off his football skills for prospective National Football League teams.

Williams wrapped up his college career at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill in 2019, playing on special teams and as a reserve running back.

The 5-foot-11, 215-pound running back recently posted his numbers on some of the various tests normally conducted at the NFL’s annual combine. Williams tweeted he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.50 seconds, did 26 repetitions on the 225-pound bench press and has a 35-inch vertical leap. He also had a 4.08 second speed on the 20-yard shuttle drill and 10.1 feet on the broad jump.

Williams has aspirations to play football in the NFL and said he had some workouts scheduled with teams cancelled due to the coronavirus precautions.

After a pro day in Atlanta was cancelled, Williams said he and his agents, Robert Walker and Josh Apple, asked themselves what the next step was to show teams what he could do.

“He said we could do some kind of video…I was like, why not do a virtual (workout) where they could tune in? We recorded it at the same time if (NFL officials) were not available to tune in at a certain time,” Williams said.

Williams taped many of the videos up in Chapel Hill but also posted some workout footage from the Albemarle High School field. He was featured in the videos locally along with R.J. Prince, a former Albemarle standout who is a member of the Baltimore Ravens organization. Also in the video was Lee Autry, a multi-sport standout from Albemarle who recently graduated after playing two seasons of NCAA Div. I football at Mississippi State.

Back home in Stanly County, Williams said he is training on various fields when available to get workouts in and stay in shape. He said his cousin, Jiheim Allen, a senior at North Stanly, was helping produce videos so he could show NFL teams he was still staying active and getting work in.

“What we came up with is why not just post workouts and let (NFL officials) see on social media we are still getting workouts in,” Williams said.

It has been important, the former Tar Heel said, to get his numbers out there for the NFL to see because twice he was caught from behind on the field during games.

“Some guys might have questioned my speed a little bit…if I had attended the (NFL) combine, I would have been in the top three in just about everything,” Williams said.

Having started at both the high school and Div. I levels, along with playing special teams, Williams said it has been important to let teams know what he brings to the table.

“I’m a good running back…I was a significant player at every level. For me, it’s continuing to post things to show (teams) I’m a versatile guy, an elite-level running back,” Williams said.

Two or three times a week, Williams meets up with a group of NFL players, including Charlotte native Daniel Jones of the New York Giants. While staying under 10 people and practicing social distancing, Williams said the group will run passing drills, working on routes and such. The drills are videotaped and NFL teams have access to the see the finished product.

“(Teams) can see me catching balls; they’re able to see me make a football move. They’re able to see me continue to progress and get better,” Williams said.

One aspect Williams said he hopes comes through as well is his leadership ability, which he displayed both at North Stanly and in the college ranks. Tar Heels head coach Mack Brown, in an interview for a previous story in The Stanly News & Press, praised Williams for his leadership ability and work ethic in practice.

“I think my mentality is a little different than anybody else, how I work and I’m always going to find ways to get things done, ” Williams said. “I don’t think that’s something that you can see in a video. I don’t think you can see the communications we’re having with each other, how we’re building chemistry.”

Williams said he remembers saying to former coaches like Ralph Jackson, the former Comet and current Anson County head coach, his desire to reach the NFL as far back as seventh grade. Williams credits coaches like Jackson for their positive influence in his and other lives as far as staying involved in the community.

When the NFL Draft happens next week, Williams said it would mean a lot to hear his name called as a selection. However, he added he could also likely sign as a free agent after the draft, having talked to 22 teams about that possibility.

As Williams continues to get support from fellow Stanly players, the individual colors of jerseys they wore in high school do not matter as much, he said, as the group continues to work hard to find or keep a place in the NFL.

“At the end of the day, we’re all trying to do the same thing, (be) good for our community. We’re trying to provide for generations of our family.”

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored twice by the North Carolina Press Association.

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