Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez, Carolina Panthers
Teddy Williams of Tyler, Texas was a standout sprinter for UTSA Track & Field from 2007-2010, when he compiled a nearly flawless career as a four-time All-American and four-time Southland Conference Athlete of the Year, leading the Roadrunners to numerous conference championships.
He also set a school record for the 100-meter dash with a time of 9.90 seconds – the fastest time in the world that season – at the 2009 UTEP Invitational.
Now, Teddy races against NFL receivers as a cornerback for the Carolina Panthers.
Williams joined the NFL in 2010 after the Dallas Cowboys held their training camp in San Antonio. UTSA Football Coach Eric Roark helped Williams get an opportunity to try out for the team after making the Cowboys’ staff aware of his combination of size and speed.
Though he hadn’t played a snap since his senior year of high school, the Cowboys signed the 6’1”, 207-pound sprinter as an undrafted free agent.
Teddy was a multi-sport athlete at John Tyler High School, where he starred as a wide receiver before he broke his ankle during his senior season.
Williams completed his rehab in time for track season and received a track scholarship to attend UTSA, putting his football career on a nearly five-year hiatus.
“Football has always been number one in my life,” Williams commented. “When I broke my ankle, it threw me off. I had to get an education that was paid for. UTSA was the only scholarship I had and I went with it.”
Following his standout collegiate track career, Williams had various offers to pursue track professionally, including one from Nike. “But I knew my heart was always in football, and the opportunity presented itself to go back to the field,” Williams recalled. He took that opportunity and was placed on the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad, where he began his climb to an active roster.
The journey hasn’t been easy, nor did it happen overnight; Williams spent five years on five different teams as injuries continued to prolong his maturation as a player.
He suffered a strained hamstring in Dallas and a torn Achilles while playing wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals in November 2013, just three weeks after catching his first NFL pass: a 51-yard bomb from Arizona Quarterback Carson Palmer.
Different coaches shifted him between the cornerback to wide receiver positions; he also spent time as a kick returner.
In March, Panthers’ Head Coach Ron Rivera claimed him off of waivers from the Jacksonville Jaguars and placed him on the Carolina defense and special teams.
“It’s been a journey for me,” Williams said of his transition from offense to defense. “I’ve grown to love it and I prefer defense over offense. The rest of my career, I’ll be on defense … but wherever they need me to go, I’m out there, and I’m ready to make a play.”
His unlikely path to the NFL has been impressive; Williams credits his accomplishments to his commitment and motivation. He prides himself on personal drive. “I don’t need anyone around me to push me,” Williams said. “There’s no coach or no other person out there that can push me harder than I push myself.”
Teddy’s hard work literally paid off in March, when he finally signed a $2.3 million contract that will keep him in Carolina for the next two years. When asked if he hopes to make a career in the NFL, Williams responded, “Oh most definitely … a minimum of ten years and everything else is icing on the cake.”
Teddy recorded his first solo tackle with Carolina against the Houston Texans last Sunday, taking down Texans punt-returner Keith Mumphery halfway through the first quarter. Williams and the Carolina Panthers will be in action against the New Orleans Saints in Charlotte on Sept. 27.