On Saturday the Atlanta Falcons selected cornerback/kick returner Avery Williams with the No. 183 overall pick in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. It was the team’s third selection in the fifth round, following on the heels of defensive tackle Ta’Quon Graham (University of Texas, No. 148 overall) and defensive end Adetokunbo Ogundeji (Notre Dame, No. 182 overall).
Avery—5-foot-9 and 195 pounds—played in 48 games over the course of four seasons at Boise State after earning a place on the team as a walk-on. During that time, he amassed 152 total tackles (111 solo), along with four interceptions, 26 passes defensed, five forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Most of that production came at cornerback, though he also played nickel back and safety during his senior year.
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Yet where he really made a name for himself is on special teams, where he had nine career returns for touchdowns (tying the NCAA record), not to mention five blocked kicks (a combination of blocked punts and field goals). That includes 82 punt returns for 948 yards and six touchdowns (11.6-yard average), and 38 kickoff returns for 1,042 yards and three touchdowns (27.4-yard average).
“That’s my passion. That’s how I first got onto the field at Boise State,” said Williams, speaking to the media via Zoom call shortly after he was selected. “That was definitely what has driven me this far and I’m looking forward to continuing that at the next level.”
Cordarrelle Patterson an Inspiration
Asked about which NFL kick returners he has looked up to, Williams mentioned Devin Hester and Percy Harvin, as well as his new teammate Cordarrelle Patterson—“guys like that, who changed the game,” he said.
“I’m more than excited” about getting a chance to play with—and learn from—Patterson, he added, noting Cordarrelle is “a guy I always looked up to.”
As for what has made him successful as a return man: “The main thing is you’ve got to be fearless back there,” he advised.
How Does He Fit with the Falcons?
If you ask Williams, he says he’ll be happy to contribute any way he can.
“What I want to show is I can do anything,” he said. “Not only can I, but I am more than willing to do anything, so whatever is going to help the Atlanta Falcons be the best team, that’s where they’ll put me and that’s where I’ll be.”
According to Michael Rothstein, who covers the Falcons for ESPN, Atlanta head coach Arthur Smith has indicated that Williams will get a chance on special teams, defense and maybe even offense.
For starters, though, Williams will be competing with Chris Rowland for the punt return job, while also providing depth in the defensive backfield. Meanwhile, he is likely to end up as the second-string kickoff returner behind Patterson while also serving other roles on special teams.
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