Former Kentucky running back Stanley “Boom” Williams doesn’t worry that he’s the smallest player on the field. And he doesn’t worry that he’s one of seven running backs attempting to make the Cincinnati Bengals’ roster this summer.
He’s just taking it all in.
“For me, at the end of the day, I just wanted a shot. That’s all I could ask for,” said Williams, who signed as an undrafted free agent with the Bengals after opting to leave Kentucky at the end of his junior season. “It’s such a blessing to come out here and be able to showcase my talents and be able to get my shot. It all just boils down to coming out here and just making the best of what you could do every day — just being the best version of yourself every time you step on the field.”
At 5-foot-8, Williams is the shortest Bengal on the expanded roster for the preseason OTAs (organized team activities). At 190 pounds, he’s the sixth-lightest just ahead of three cornerbacks, a wide receiver and one of the two kickers.
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“I’ve always been kind of the smallest guy on the team, but for me, my job is to just come out here and make plays and try to put myself out here where the coaches notice me — where I can be on that 53-man roster once the season starts and help this team any way that I can,” Williams said.
To do that, Williams must compete with six other backs, including veteran Jeremy Hill, who figures to be battling with second-round pick Joe Mixon for the starting role.
Giovani Bernard, a runner more like Williams, has a proven track record of four NFL seasons but had last season cut short by an ACL tear. Bernard has participated in OTAs in a limited capacity and is expected to be healthy by opening day.
The Bengals also have longtime special teams captain Cedric Peerman listed at running back and another free agent signing this year out of Texas-San Antonio in Jarveon Williams. Tra Carson, a 2016 free agent signing out of Texas A&M, earned a spot on the practice squad last year.
A hamstring pull limited Williams during workouts in early May, but he was cleared in time to participate in the second of three sets of OTAs last week. The biggest adjustment, of course, has been the speed of the pro game, but he’s gotten used to the Bengals’ routine and has been getting help from his new teammates.
“All the veterans have been showing love and helping me,” Williams said. “A lot of offensive veterans have been helping me with the playbook. It’s a brotherhood. You can tell by the first day that you walk in that it’s a brotherhood just being a part of this team and this organization.”
Williams turned pro after his best season at Kentucky. He ran for 1,170 yards on 171 carries and scored seven touchdowns. He’d been a little injury prone at Kentucky and his size and ball security were concerns for some NFL observers, but Williams performed well at the NFL Combine and drew interest from the Bengals.
“They called me once the draft was over and told me I’d be a part of their team,” Williams said. “It was a very big moment for me and my family. From that point on, I’ve just tried to make the best of every opportunity that I have out here.”
During Tuesday’s OTAs, Williams had a few drops and did a few punitive pushups, but he knows having bad days are a part of what he’s attempting to do.
“Some days are going to be rough,” he said. “You just have to come out and rebound and hopefully learn from the things that you missed and learn from the film and be able to correct those things and tomorrow have a better day.”
Buccaneers at Bengals
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 11