How Chris Williamson 's College Journey Prepared Him for Life in NFL
All the players and coaches involved in the University of Minnesota football team's 2019 season deserve credit for its historic finish. But cornerback Chris Williamson, then a fifth-year senior who transferred to Minnesota from Florida in 2017, went the extra mile.
The Golden Gophers won their first nine games of the year en route to a 10th place ranking in the final AP Poll of the season, their first ranked finish since 2003, and highest finish since 1962.
During the season, Williamson found his footing as a budding young defensive back whom the Giants would go on to draft in the seventh round with the 247th overall pick this year.
In two seasons for the Golden Gophers, Williamson appeared in 23 games and recorded 90 total tackles, 7.5 takes for a loss. He also posted 3.5 sacks, seven passes defended one forced fumble, and even returned an interception for a touchdown.
Williamson went on to post his best season in 2019. According to Golden Gophers defensive backs coach Joe Harasymiak, the newest Giants rookie would practically live in the team's film room.
In addition to his preparation in the film room, one of Williamson's most notable traits in college was his aggressiveness, which sometimes costs him in coverage.
According to Harasymiak, Williamson's aggressive nature, combined with his obsession with film and learning the tendencies of his opponents, would sometimes lead the corner to assume his opponent's moves.
Harasymiak believes that to succeed in the NFL, Williamson has to react and trust his natural athleticism rather than overthinking his opponents' moves.
"He would notice something, and, instead of just reacting, sometimes he would kinda be just too aggressive in assuming what was going to happen," Harasymiak old Giants Country in a recent phone interview. "We talk about as DB's it's all about reaction. It's about your eyes first, then your feet and your hands are a bonus.
"That's where he got into some trouble sometimes--almost overthinking some things, where if he just reacts and lets his physical ability take over, he'll be pretty good."
Outside of the temptation to guess his opponent's moves, Williamson's degree of preparation made him a key contributor and leader specific to Minnesota's secondary — a unit that allowed the second-fewest passing yards in the Big Ten in 2019.
"His leadership was displayed more in [the defensive backs] room than it was to the whole defensive team because when you're a transfer, you haven't been here, so you have to earn everybody's respect," Harasymiak said.
Williamson had to sit out the 2017 season per NCAA transfer eligibility rules and had to wait before he could fully interject his voice in a defense with several dominant personalities.
This room included safety Antoine Winfield Jr, who was drafted in the second round (pick No. 45 overall) by the Bucs, who was next to Williamson in those long film room sessions.
Now with the Giants, Williamson is facing the challenge of having to start over from scratch again and earn snaps along with respect from his teammates, something for which his college experience has prepared him.
"I truly believe that where you're a 10-year NFL veteran or a rookie with him or whatever, [Chris] is going to have a personality that attracts everyone," Harasymiak said. "I think that will help him going into a situation he's never been in before with so many dominant personalities in the NFL."
Williamson also brings a willingness to adjust to whatever role a team needs of him.
At Minnesota, he was initially projected to be one of the starting perimeter cornerbacks for 2018. However, his quest was setback by a hamstring strain, and the position went to a teammate.
When Williamson was healthy, the coaches asked him if he would move to the nickel, and Williamson graciously threw himself into the transition process.
Determined to make it work, Williamson gathered tape of NFL players who excelled at playing the slot position, such as Nickell Robey-Coleman, Kenny Moore, Mike Hilton and picked various aspects from their games to incorporate into his.
"He's got good top-end [speed], he's got good weight on him, he's physical, he'll tackle. I think he probably has to improve some of his man coverage skills in the slot just because he hasn't been doing it that long," Harasymiak said.
As Williamson begins his first NFL training camp, the Giants coaches will look to help Williamson build off his productive college career. They have a player in Williamson with the versatility, study habits, and willingness to contribute at whatever role they see fit.
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