A day after using his feet to set two NFL combine records, Wendall Williams was trying get "a little grounded."
The wide receiver/kick returner from NAIA University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Kentucky, ran a hand-clocked time of 4.19 seconds in the 40-yard dash Saturday at Winter Park, Minnesota, to set a regional combine record. Chris Johnson’s electronically-timed 4.24 in 2008 remains the gold standard.
NFL.com reported that Williams was laser-timed in 4.32 seconds, which is still pretty fast. His vertical jump of 45.0 inches also matched the mark shared by Ohio State’s Donald Washington and Georgia’s Chris Conley.
"I didn’t see the numbers, but I couldn’t believe them at first," Williams told The Associated Press by phone on Sunday. "I thought I ran something good, but not that good. But then I saw the reaction from the other guys and realized it was pretty good."
The NFL said in an email Sunday night that Williams’ time was hand-recorded by regional combine evaluators and several scouts, who recorded similar hand times.
Johnson noted that his time is still the record, saying in a tweet, "Everybody relax he ran a unofficial time of 4.19 and his official time (laser) meaning real time was a 4.32."
Williams’ achievements were first posted in tweets from NFLRegionalCombines with hashtags such as (hash)dontstopyafeet and (hash)makingdreamscometrue. The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder is now dealing with sudden fame his speed has created.
"I can’t even explain how many texts and phone calls I’ve gotten," he added. "It’s been outrageous."
Williams knows a lot of work remains if he hopes to be on an NFL roster either via the draft on April 28-30 or with a free-agent contract. He plans to attend some individual team or pro day workouts toward that end.
But thanks to his quick steps and a major leap, he might have jumped on to teams’ radars with his eye-popping numbers.
Cumberlands coach Mark Rhymer said via email Sunday that he had gotten few scouts’ inquiries about Williams before Saturday and noted, "there have been several professional organizations reach out to me last night and this morning."
Considering Williams was an accomplished two-sport athlete with the Patriots, his performance wasn’t that surprising.
The American Football Coaches Association selected the Syracuse, New York, native as a second team All-American kick returner last fall after he gained 777 yards on 24 attempts with three touchdowns. Williams also compiled 661 yards and 11 TDs on offense and returned a punt for another score.
Williams won the NAIA long jump title as a junior, and Rhymer believes his player can carry those skills to the pros.
"Wendall has natural running abilities that are obvious by his track numbers alone," Rhymer said. "That’s not all he has, though. He can run great routes, catch the ball and make people miss after catch.
"Wendall loves being an athlete, training and practicing every day to get better at his craft, I believe that will really help him in terms of playing on the next level."
Williams wasn’t at the recent NFL Combine in Indianapolis that featured players from many NCAA Division I and larger schools. But he has trained since the end of last season in nearby Fishers, Indiana, in preparation for the combine for small-college players at the Minnesota Vikings’ training facility. Scouts from the Green Bay Packers, Carolina Panthers and Kansas City Chiefs were also present.
Williams said he was more anxious to get going than nervous at the combine and felt good about his prospects after matching the vertical jump record.
"I kind of surprised myself with that one," he said.
Coming from a small school, Williams knows he faces an uphill battle against major-college counterparts in realizing his dream of playing in the NFL. On the other hand, he has an example to follow in Johnson, an East Carolina product who became a 2008 first-round draft choice of the Tennessee Titans and three-time Pro Bowl selection. Now with the Arizona Cardinals, Johnson is one of seven players to surpass 2,000 yards rushing in a season.
Williams seeks a similar opportunity and just wants to follow up his combine performance that raised the bar on two fronts.
Said Williams, "I just wanted to leave it all on the field and made sure I used the right technique."