Three months from now, Malcolm Williams may go to his first day of NFL training camp and miss a tackle, blow an assignment, be cut and never play football again.
He’ll slip through the cracks of everyone’s memories, remembered only, if he’s lucky, as a backup on a Rose Bowl-winning team.
That is reality.
Williams, however, isn’t concerned about reality because right now he has no grasp of it.
The former TCU backup cornerback is stuck somewhere else.
“I’m living in a dream right now,” said Williams, who was drafted by the New England Patriots with the 219th overall pick in the seventh round of the NFL Draft Saturday afternoon. “It’s the best thing that can happen to me.”
Williams, a transfer from Trinity Valley Community College, made no starts at safety or cornerback in his two years at TCU, playing behind starter Jason Teague his senior year. The Grand Prairie native appeared in every game in 2010, mainly on special teams, though, where he led the Frogs with 12 tackles.
More surprising than the fact Williams was drafted while the guy in front of him on the depth char wasn’t was how Williams ended up on the TCU depth chart to begin with.
A star in high school at South Grand Prairie, Williams was named Texas 5A Defensive Player of the Year. The 5’10” cornerback signed with Oklahoma but failed to make the cut academically his senior year of high school.
“I had some big shoes to fill when I went up to Oklahoma,” Williams said. “But I ended up not qualifying so I had to sit out a year.”
Williams said he took the summer and fall after his senior year off, studied hard, but failed to qualify academically again.
For six months, Williams worked at D/FW International Airport collecting bags – an unlikely destination for a four-star recruit one year out of high school.
Then, around mid-April, Williams got a call.
It was Trinity Valley head coach Brad Smiley asking Williams if he’d like to play for the Trinity Valley Cardinals in the fall.
“Mr. Malcolm Williams, I hear you don’t have a home,” Smiley told Williams. “I’ll give you one if you want it.”
Smiley told Williams if he earned his GED before summer practices, he’d have a spot for him at Trinity Valley.
Williams jumped at the chance and quickly got his GED, something, he said, he wished he could’ve done as a freshman in high school.
“It was so easy (getting my GED),” Williams said. “I got my GED, reported at the beginning of the summer and that’s all she wrote from there.”
Williams was named Junior College National Defensive Player of the Week after a Trinity Valley upset win over Georgia Military his freshman year. His sophomore season he placed second in the nation with five interceptions.
His two years of work at TVCC earned him a scholarship to TCU in 2009, where he immediately made an impact on special teams while serving as the backup safety.
Williams said he knew going into his senior year he wasn’t going to start over Teague, so he planned on catching the eye of an NFL team any way he could.
“I was going to go ahead and ball out at special teams and do really good at my pro day and maybe I’d get a shot,” Williams said.
That shot came March 10 at the TCU Pro Day.
After pressing 16 bench press reps of 225 lbs and jumping a 42” vertical, Williams said he knew he’d have to have a good 40-yard dash time to finish the day strong.
“I was praying ‘please let me run a 4.4,'” Williams said. “Ran a 4.4. I impressed myself let alone the NFL coaches.”
Even though Williams never started a game in his two years at TCU, his pro day performance came as no surprise to Horned Frog head coach Gary Patterson.
“He’s an unbelievable athlete,” Patterson said. “He just had to play behind a great corner in Jason Teague. He, more than anybody, epitomizes what we said this place is all about.”
Now that Williams has an invite to the Patriots’ training camp, he’ll have a chance to make some unexpected income that will go a long way in supporting his wife, his two-year-old daughter and a second child expected in September.
“It’s going to help me support them,” Williams said. “That’s the main key about that.”
Patterson said one of the joys of having his players get drafted is they will get an opportunity to earn and save hundreds of thousands of dollars straight out of college.
“The amount of money you can make and put away is unbelievable,” Patterson said. “This is a chance to change their lives.”
Williams offered a simple, timeless phrase to sum up his journey from airport bag collector to NFL draftee.
“Hard work pays off,” Williams said. “That’s all you can really say.”