The one perk for undrafted free agents is the ultimate decision as to where they play is up to them. If they are courted by multiple teams, they get to choose. Deonte Williams is one such player.
The Oakland native got the call from his hometown Raiders and is getting the chance to don the Silver & Black uniform of which he had been a fan since he was 8 years old. But his number one hope was to have a team select him in the draft.
Neither the Raiders, nor any other team took a chance on Williams in the draft. But for Williams, it was an incredible consolation prize for him to have the opportunity to play for his favorite team.
"It's an amazing feeling," Williams told KSBY Sports after signing with the Raiders as an undrafted free agent. "Growing up being a Raider fan, being born in Oakland, and you know my whole life always cheering for the Raiders and to put that uniform on, that's black and silver. Whoo! I can't wait, I really can't wait. Words can't explain it, I'm just a Raider at heart,"
That heart should take him far in his quest to make the jump from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to the NFL which is not an easy transition.
Though he faced a lower level of competition in the Big Sky conference, this 5-10, 213 pound back dominated. He transferred to Cal Poly from Sierra College and as a senior rushed for 1,547 yards on 231 carries (6.7 yards per carry) and 12 touchdowns. He surpassed the 100-yard mark in rushing 10 times in 12 games last season, including a season-high 188 against UC Davis.
His numbers as a senior earned him team MVP as well as a trip to the Casino Del Sol College All Star Game. Also playing in the game were two of the Raiders sixth round draft picks, DT Stacy McGee and WR Brice Butler.
After putting up a ridiculous 2,447 yards and 27 touchdowns in his senior season at Pleasant Grove High School in Elk Grove, it is a wonder he didn't receive more attention from Division I schools. He started his college career at Northern Arizona in 2008 where he was named Big Sky Conference Newcomer of the year after rushing for 950 yards (4.3 yards per carry) and 12 touchdowns as a freshman.
He then moved on to play for Sierra College for one season (2009) in which he rushed for 1,037 yards and 14 touchdowns. From there, he signed a letter of intent to transfer to San Diego State but inexplicably opted to stay at Sierra College to finish his Associates degree before eventually playing his final two seasons at Cal Poly SLO.
Cal Poly SLO isn't what one would call a football factory. However, their most famous Mustang football Alumnus is one that is well known to Raiders fans - John Madden.
Madden, like Williams, grew up in the Bay Area and was a junior college transfer to Cal Poly SLO. There he played both offense and defense for the Mustangs and won all-conference honors at offensive tackle. He was drafted in the 21st round by the Eagles in 1958, but a knee injury ended his playing career before it started. He would begin his Hall of Fame NFL coaching career five years later.
The two most recent NFL players to come from the school were cornerback Asa Jackson who was chosen in the fifth round of the 2012 draft by the Ravens and was suspended late in his rookie season for PED's, and wide receiver Ramses Barden who was chosen by the Giants in the third round of the 2009 draft, played four invisible seasons in New York and is currently without a team. So, yeah, not great of late.
The Raiders are hoping this Mustang can buck that trend. They liked him enough to call him even prior to the end of the draft. At that point, it must have been a bit of a quandary for Deonte watching the last few picks be taken off the board. Being drafted is nice, but getting a chance to play for the team of your choice is pretty sweet too.
Williams enters a group of running backs with a sure starter in Darren McFadden who can't stay healthy, a career backup in Rashad Jennings, the team's sixth round pick, Latavius Murray, and 2012 undrafted free agent, Jeremy Stewart. Williams has a similar upright style of running to his fellow backfield mates. He is not flashy and won't make a lot of players miss, but he has good instincts to find the crease and shoot through it. He is also not afraid to lower his pads and finish a run.
I think there is no question, Williams won't be outworked. He has no intention of letting this dream end early. It will be an uphill climb to be certain.