“The players have a great appreciation for both the skill and the way he tries,” John Bunting said. “When you have a kid out there trying like that, you can only admire him. Kids like that make it a pleasure to coach.”
It's unknown how many total field goals Williams has blocked in practice, but he's been disruptive to the kicking game, to say the least.
This past spring, he got his hands on seven in a row, according to Bunting. He actually played so well he had to sit on the sideline; the field goal unit couldn’t get in any full reps.
Williams, a 5-11, 190-pound junior walk-on from Charlotte, is also the gunner on punt returns.
Sure, he’d love to have a spot on the two-deep at cornerback, and that may come to fruition one day. In the meantime, he’s just happy to be playing football.
“I know my place. I know my role,” the psychology major said.
A two-time all-conference performer at Hopewell High School, Williams said he envisioned bigger and better things for the future. He had to go through an adjustment period early in his college career, but now he’s making the best of his situation.
“I’m just out here trying to help,” Williams said. “If what I need to do is block kicks, that’s what I’ll do. It wasn’t part of my master plan. I never really did it in high school.”
After realizing he might be relegated to practice squad status, he figured out a way to get on the field during games. He saw Linwood Williams at the designated kick blocker (DKB) spot last season, and decided to give it a shot after Williams graduated.
“I remember when he came to camp his parents were talking with me about how happy they were to have him in camp,” Bunting recalled. “I knew he had energy, and I knew he wanted to play. Like a lot of kids coming out of high school, he was like, ‘When are you going to put me in against Florida State. Aren’t you going to give me a chance?’
“But this is not Little League anymore.”
Since then, Williams has worked hard to try and contribute on the practice field. Last fall he impressed a little more and earned the position with special teams. In the spring, he earned a spot as the gunner on punt coverage.
Speed is needed for the position, and Williams certainly has that. He recorded the fastest 40-time on the team last spring – 4.37 seconds.
“There are a few guys that can run with me, like Jacoby Watkins,” Williams said.
But speed alone doesn’t make him a great kick blocker.
“A lot of people think it’s just being fast and getting around the corner, but really it’s getting your foot down and trying to maneuver your body and get in the way of the kick,” he explained.
Starting in a couple weeks, the Tar Heels will find out whether his now legendary practice field success will translate into actual games.
“He’s got a great first step,” Bunting added. “I’m really anxious to see him get out there on the game field and do it.”