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August 15, 2013

COLTS CAMP: Rookie Williams comfortable with any role

ANDERSON —  The specter weaving through defenders in the middle of the field suddenly burst free near the sideline. And then the race was over.

After corralling a short pass from Andrew Luck, rookie running back Kerwynn Williams made at least two linebackers miss — no easy task in a drill that essentially amounts to two-hand touch — and headed for paydirt.

It was his first two-minute drill working with the Indianapolis Colts’ first-team offense, and the seventh-round pick showcased nearly everything general manager Ryan Grigson saw in him during the draft process. Guts,

hands, elusiveness and — my, oh, my — that breakaway speed.

Williams finally slowed to a stop some 55 yards downfield in the end zone, but the coaches had other ideas.

Instead of allowing the touchdown, they called a phantom tackle back near midfield and allowed the drive to continue. The running back never said a word, just jogged back to the huddle and lined up for the next snap.

“It definitely felt good to be out there with the ones and stuff like that,” Williams recalled after Thursday’s morning walkthrough. “Get that experience with them running the two-minute drill and just seeing how things work with them.”

Williams had to wait in line before becoming the featured back at Utah State. But once he got the job in 2012, he made the most of it — rushing for 1,512 yards and 15 touchdowns.

His position coach then — Mike Sanford, who is now the head coach at Indiana State — recently told the Terre Haute Tribune Star the diminutive running back is “a home run hitter.”

Williams originally made his name with the Aggies hitting home runs on special teams, averaging 27.2 yards per kickoff return and scoring one touchdown in 2010.

In his NFL preseason debut Sunday, Williams averaged 17.8 yards on five kickoff returns and was the Colts’ leading rusher with 21 yards on four carries.

“I did all right running the ball,” Williams said, seeming unimpressed with his own performance. “The offensive line did a great job blocking up front, and they opened up some good holes for me. I just tried to take advantage of it.”

Checking in at 5-foot-8 and 196 pounds, Williams is two inches taller and 15 pounds heavier than New Orleans Saints all-purpose back Darren Sproles.

Sproles began his career in the NFL as LaDainian Tomlinson’s backup with the San Diego Chargers. He carved a niche out for himself as a return man on special teams and now is used as an all-purpose offensive weapon by the Saints.

Williams eventually could grow into a similar role in Indianapolis, serving as a change-of-pace in the running game while the coaches devise ways to use his speed in the open field.

He isn’t sure what the future holds, but he’s willing to play whatever role he is assigned.

“I honestly just want to do whatever the coaches want me to do,” Williams said. “Whether it be change-of-pace back or playing on special teams, whatever it takes to contribute to the team is what I want to do.”

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