Tale of 2 Cardinals: Boehm could start, Williams needs work

May 5, 2016

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Fourth-round draft pick Evan Boehm could start right away at center for the Arizona Cardinals. Third-rounder Brandon Williams might take a bit longer. After all, he's only played one season at cornerback, one of the most challenging positions in football.

Boehm and Williams were introduced at a news conference on Thursday, a day before the start of the Cardinals' rookie mini-camp.

Starting just comes naturally for Boehm, who has missed one game in eight seasons as a starter in high school and at Missouri. That miss was in his senior year in high school, where his dad was the coach.

That experience, and being a coach's son, should help in Boehm's effort to start as a rookie, he said. He will compete with A.Q. Shipley for the job. It was the first time in 20 years that the Cardinals drafted a center in the first four rounds.


''I'm here to compete. That's what I want to do,'' Boehm said. ''I'm hungry to go and get started. I want to learn this offense as quickly as possible. I want to go and I want to compete for that starting spot. But most importantly I want to help this team out anywhere I can.''

Boehm suffered a high right ankle sprain in the first game of last season and played with the injury the rest of the way.

''I think that showed my toughness,'' he said. ''... Was it bad at some points? Yeah, it was. But I went out there and tried to dominate my opponent just like I was healthy.''

Boehm was offered a scholarship to Missouri when he was in the eighth grade. As a high school junior, he was on the state championship football team, won a state title in wrestling and won the discus at the state championship track meet.

''My discus was on my very last throw,'' he said. ''Pressure situations, I love to be in those. I think that's where I excel the most is in those situations. And I don't fear the pressure. I go attack it head on, and I love doing that.''

If he does win the job, Boehm will line up between two seasoned, successful guards - Mike Iupati and Evan Mathis.

''They're big,'' he said. ''They're studs. They're vets and that's going to be awesome. I've got to sit in their back pockets and I've got to pick their brains on why they've become so successful in this league.''

Williams jumped at the chance to switch from running back to cornerback at Texas A&M.

''It was running back by committee so I really didn't get a lot of touches, a lot of playing time for me, or the other running backs,'' he said. ''So when I heard the word `start,' that I could really be an impact, I took that chance.''

His first game was difficult, to say the least.

''It was just a different feel,'' Williams said. ''Like, I'm a fast guy, but running with guys, stopping with them, just feels so uncomfortable.''

He steadily improved through the season, but knows he has a lot of work to do to succeed in the NFL.

''It's just technique, really,'' he said. ''One of the things that I embrace is the process. You've got to have patience. You've got to embrace that grind in and grind out. If not, you won't last. I've been doing it for eight months now at corner, and I won't stop now.''

Williams' defensive coordinator at Texas A&M, John Chavis, also coached current Cardinals All-Pros Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu when he was at LSU.

At first, Williams' biggest contributions might be on special teams.

''It's very important,'' he said. ''Even if I become a starter, I still want to be on special teams because I want to make an impact on the team wherever I'm at.''

Williams knows all about responsibility. He has two daughters, ages 7 and 2.

''Just the fact now I'll be able to take care of my baby girls,'' he said. ''That's the most overwhelming thing to me. Football is what I do, but being able to provide for my girls, that's the only thing that really brings tears to me.''


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and AP NFL Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/AP-NFL