This was also evidence of the kind of mental toughness Baylor coach Art Briles claimed Williams had while providing input that helped boost the receiver to 23rd overall on the Cowboys’ draft board.
A week ago, Williams was near tears as he walked off the field in San Diego. He felt like he let his teammates down with a critical fumble as he tried to stretch into the end zone with the Cowboys trailing by nine late in the game.
Williams, who the Cowboys considered a steal in the third round, had reason to hold his head high despite a 51-48 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday. Williams had 151 yards on four catches and a touchdown, posting the highest receiving yardage total by a Cowboys rookie in more than a decade.
“I was just trying to battle back from last week,” said Williams, who had 12 catches for 131 yards in the first four games. “Dez [Bryant], Miles [Austin] and the rest of the guys were good to me, giving me words after the game. That feeling just walking off the field after that, I can’t come back and let these guys down again. I took that for a personal challenge to just come out here and use my talents for what they brought me in for.”
The Cowboys brought Williams in to be an immediate impact player who could make big plays. That’s exactly what he did against Denver, catching every ball thrown his way, highlighted by an 82-yard touchdown when he got behind the Broncos’ secondary on a post route midway through the third quarter.
It’s tough for any receiver to make the mental jump from college to the NFL, and it’s been especially difficult for Williams, who missed the first two preseason games due to a concussion. It wasn’t unusual during training camp to hear a coach or teammate yelling at Williams after running a route incorrectly or not making the right adjustment.
That could be considered a compliment, though. The reason they were so hard on Williams is because they were counting on him to contribute right away as the Cowboys’ third receiver, with his role increasing when Austin’s infamous hamstring issues caused the veteran to sit out the last two games.
“He’s a starter in the National Football League,” eight-time Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten said of Williams. “I don’t look at him as filling in. There wasn’t a tougher guy on him going into training camp than me, more critical. That was because you knew he had a chance to be a good player. He’s got speed, he can catch, the game’s not too big. It’s just great to see him mature the way he has.
“I’m really proud of him. He doesn’t play like a rookie, which is a compliment. The maturity level he has to put that one behind him and move on, you usually don’t see that in young players. He doesn’t back down from it.”