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Kerwynn Williams Journey in the NFL

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The top backup to All-Pro David Johnson has had a long journey to the Arizona Cardinals main roster.

Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Kerwynn Williams’ road to the NFL and fixture to a 53-man roster was difficult. He started his football career with Utah State Aggies, sitting behind Robert Turbin and Michael Smith. When both left for the NFL, Williams finally had a chance to start and showcase his talent. He finished his senior year averaging 6.9 yards with 1,512 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns. In addition he displayed excellent receiving skills, catching 45 passes for 697 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Even with an impressive senior season, NFL.com analyst saw many weaknesses in the running back.

“Lacks ideal size for a starting NFL back.”

“Does not explode out of his stance quickly, builds up speed”

“Consistently taken down by the first defender, doesn’t fall forward”

The only weakness that I agree with is his pass protection. Other than that, his shifty athletic nature made him an intriguing prospect in the 2013 NFL Draft. He waited for a while and a call finally arrived. On the third day of the NFL Draft, dreams came true and the Indianapolis Colts selected Kerwynn Williams with the 230th overall pick.

Through his first ever preseason in the NFL, he did not disappoint. He had 169 rushing yards combined, including a 92 yard rushing performance in week four of the preseason. Unfortunately for him, he lost to Vick Ballard and Donald Brown and got cut as that Colts trimmed their roster down to the 53 limit. After clearing waivers, he re-signed with the team’s practice squad. Even though he was promoted to the 53-man roster and was active for one game, he got cut the season after and was picked up by the SAN DIEGO Chargers.

The 2014 preseason came about and Williams saw some action, rushed for 10 yards and a touchdown. From there on after, he did not get any more reps in the preseason. He did not make it through the first round of cuts and was released after week 3 of the preseason. It wasn’t too long after when the Arizona Cardinals came calling and signed him to their practice squad. Although he was signed to the practice squad and released by Arizona a couple of times, the injuries that piled up for the team gave Kerwynn Williams a chance at stardom. He had a breakout performance in his first ever regular season action against the Chiefs, rushed for 100 yards and averaged 5.3YPC. That was the Cardinals first and only 100 yard rusher in any single game that season. He finished the 2014 season with 246 yards and averaged 4.6 yards in the four game he received reps in.

In the 2015 season, he experienced the same things. He got cut in the preseason and was signed to the practice squad. Then re-signed with the Cardinals to the active roster as a result to Chris Johnson’s injury. He completed the season with 142 yards rushing, averaged 5.3YPC, and rushed for his first ever regular season touchdown. The coming and going in his career just kept on happening and he probably thought to himself if this was ever going to end. Well it seems that that time has finally come.

In the 2016 season injuries to Cardinals running backs Chris Johnson and David Johnson, in addition to Andre Ellington’s ineffectiveness, gave Kerwynn Williams ample number of opportunities to play and prove to coaches once again that he has what it takes to be effective in the NFL. Though he was active in 10 games, he received running back reps in only three games. In the game against the Miami Dolphins, he carried the ball three times for 34 yards, averaging 11.3YPC. In the next game against the New Orleans Saints, he only had three carries but rushed for 63 yards and one touchdown, averaging 21YPC. That touchdown was a 49 yard run. In the regular season finale, David Johnson went down but Kerwynn Williams picked up from where he left off. He carried the ball 12 times for 60 yards and one touchdown. Overall, he finished the season with an average of 8.7YPC, a total of 157 yards, and two touchdowns. He also finished the season above Ellington on the depth chart.

Here’s what Bruce Arians had to say about the four-year veteran:

"I think Kerwynn has proven every time he plays he gets 100 yards," Arians said. "Everybody says he's too small. He just gets 100 yards every time he steps out there."

Kerwynn Williams has proven time and time again that when he plays, big things will happen. This guy is very fast, agile, and seem to make big plays in every game he plays in. He has some work to do in pass protection but just as a rusher, he is explosive and is an excellent complement to any running back. He started as a journeyman on three different practice squads, got elevated to an active roster, started near the bottom of the depth charts, and climbed his way up as the primary backup running back to All-Pro David Johnson. He has finally found a home with the Arizona Cardinals.