AUBURN, Alabama — Today is a big day for Duke Williams.
Once could argue this is the biggest day of the ex-Auburn receiver’s life as he tries to prove to the Los Angeles Rams in a workout at mini-camp that he is worth a spot in the NFL.
The undrafted free agent had to wait longer than most to get a call after the draft, but the Rams offered a tryout Tuesday.
Williams was allowed to return to Auburn for its pro day in March, but contact since then has been non-existent between the school and Williams. Auburn is also distancing itself from Williams whenever NFL scouts and team personnel reach out for more information on the troubled receiver who punched teammate Xavier Dampeer outside a bar and broke his jaw in early October.
“No, (I haven’t talked to him),” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said Wednesday. “He’s very talented and like I said at pro day, we wish him the best.”
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Williams’ talent was on display throughout his debut season at Auburn in 2014. He caught 45 passes for 730 yards and five touchdowns in only 10 games. ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. called him the No. 1 receiver prospect in January 2015.
Three suspensions and a heavy swing of the fist later, Williams went searching for redemption. He struggled at the NFL Combine and pro day, but landed a tryout with the Rams amid speculation about his off-the-field maturity. He even sought counseling.
“I’m a changed man,” Williams said. “Counseling helped me out and at the end of the day I’ve learned from my mistakes. Just give me that chance to show them, the rest of the team, the general manager, the owner that I’m worth drafting. I’m a diamond in the rough.
“… I’m working to become a better man. I was immature during my college days but I have grown over the months. I know I’m a good person and hopefully they can see that in me.”
Today, Williams will get a chance to prove whether he’s worth a second chance.
Three Auburn players were picked in the latest NFL Draft (Shon Coleman, Ricardo Louis and Blake Countess) and five more were picked up as undrafted free agents. Four more players received invitations to try out with teams, including Williams.
“Of course last year if you look we had a quite few free agents that actually made it,” Malzahn, referencing running back Corey Grant, special teams star Brandon King and quarterback/cornerback Nick Marshall. “I think you’ll see the same thing this year as far as that goes. Those three that got drafted were very well deserving.”