Carolina Panther feature running back DeAngelo Williams was born on Apr. 25, 1983 in Little Rock, Ark. He played football for Wynne H.S. out of Arkansas.
When Williams entered Memphis University as a freshman in 2002, no one ever expected to see such numbers achieved. Coming out of high school, D-Will was rated as high as 11th on rivals.com top 100 for all-purpose backs. His first season as a Tiger, he carried the ball 103 times for 684 yards and five touchdowns. That 6.6 yards per carry average was enough to impress Memphis coaches enough to believe they may have something special at the running back position. And to think, he had three years left at Memphis.
Getting ready for the 2003 season, everybody at Memphis knew who the guy was coming out of the backfield. The expectations grew even higher for Williams, and he did not fail to impress.
He was explosive, consistent, and he knew how to take over games. Defenses keyed in on Williams, yet most failed to contain him. He finished off his sophomore season with 1,430 yards on 243 carries...a 6.6 yards per carry average.
He also became a receiving threat, catching 35 passes for 385 yards and 3 TDs. At Memphis, D-Will was becoming a star and an exceptional football player all in one.
2004 brought out even more expectations. Defensive opponents had headaches game planning against the Memphis running attack. DeAngelo Williams was moving up the ladder as an elite runner at the college level.
His junior season, Williams ended up achieving massive numbers—1,948 yards on 313 carries, 22 rushing TDs. It was clear now Williams belonged in the same sentence as Reggie Bush.
Was he as good as Bush?It’s hard to say. But opponents feared Williams in the same way they feared Bush. Both backs had the ability to single-handily take over games.
The journey for Williams in college had put him in a precarious position. He was in striking distance of becoming the all-time all-purpose yardage leader in Football Bowl Subdivision history. He was also answering questions about running for 2,000 yards his senior season.
In 2005 the expectations were ridiculous for D-Will. The pressure was intense, and somehow he had to find the way to enjoy his senior year in college while sleeping every night with the burden of what was laid on his chest.
He knew if he was unable to achieve the record, many students and fans of Memphis would be let down. So he handled it the way he knew how to handle it, he took care of business. In 2005 Williams rushed for 1,964 yards and 18 TDs to become the all-time leader in all-purpose yards in NCAA FBS history.
He fell just shy of the 2,000-yard mark, but what a career. He also holds the FBS record for most career 100-yard games with 34. In his final game with Memphis in the 2005 Motor City Bowl, Williams rushed for a bowl-record 238 yars and three TDs, leading Memphis to a 38-31 victory over the University of Akron.
Williams was a finalist for the Doak Walker award won by Reggie Bush. Williams finished seventh in Heisman voting. He finished his college career with 969 rushes for 6,026 yards (6.2 yards per carry), and 55 rushing TDs. He also caught 70 passes for 723 yards and 5 scores.
DeAngelo Williams had a lot of question marks when it came to excelling at the next level. The biggest one was the competition he faced at Memphis on the football field. He was talked about as being in the first- or second- round range in the NFL draft, so it was important to have a good Combine to solidify his first-round status.
Williams had a good, but not great, Combine. He was officially measured at the Combine at 5’9”…that potentially scared off some pro teams. Small backs don’t generally fair well in the NFL as feature backs. He was clocked at 4.40 seconds in the 40-yard dash with the wind at Pro day in Memphis, but ran a 4.48 against the wind.
Still the workouts were enough for the Carolina Panthers to use their 27th pick in round first of the 2005 NFL Draft on Williams. The pick had mixed responses, as most picks in the NFL do.
Most felt DeAngelo couldn’t run between the tackles in the NFL consistent enough, and Carolina head coach John Fox is one of the top believers in running between the tackles. Some fans were skeptical and felt that with DeShaun Foster already in place, the Panthers had other needs than at running back.
Williams' first two seasons with Carolina were good enough to put Foster out the door. He had some good games but only had 1,218 yards rushing his first two seasons combined.
That prompted Fox and GM Marty Hurney to re-evaluate the running game, and they decided they needed a bruiser if Williams was going to be the explosion. So with their first pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, they selected RB Jonathan Stewart out of Oregon.
Stewart is a mauler, with enough speed to get out in the open field and run away from linebackers. The result of the two-back system made Fox look look like a genius, as the Panthers became a top-three rushing attack in the NFL.
In 2008 Williams ran for 1,515 yards on 273 carries, averaging 5.5 yards per carry while scoring 18 TDs on the ground. Williams obliterated every Carolina Panther rushing record in 2008. In my own personal opinion Williams is right now the best running back in the NFL, slightly ahead of Adrian Peterson.
They are clearly the two favorites going into fantasy football, along with Atlanta's Michael Turner, as most valued RBs. Williams in 2009 should be fun to watch if you are a Carolina Panthers fan. And if you are lucky enough to have him as your back in fantasy, enjoy the moment, I know he is enjoying it!
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