WORCESTER — After graduating from the University of Louisville last May and being released by the Los Angeles Rams a month later, Chucky Williams found himself out of football.
So the 6-foot-2, 214-pound defensive back returned home to Hialeah, Florida, in the Miami metro area and continued to work out and wait.
He waited through the rest of the summer, all of fall and well into winter despite having excellent size for his position and a résumé highlighted by productivity, durability and versatility.
Finally, Williams was contacted by Massachusetts Pirates co-owner Jawad Yatim in mid-February with an offer to join the second-year indoor football team in the National Arena League. He jumped on it like a slant route for an easy pick-six.
“It’s all about timing, so this opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time for me,” Williams, 24, said Tuesday after practice and before a lifting session at the DCU Center. “Worcester was the only team that contacted me, and I guess it’s been a blessing in disguise. I trusted them, and things have been working out well for me so far.”
Same goes for the Pirates, who have won two straight to improve to 3-4 and will look to reach .500 for the first time this season when they face the Predators (2-6) on Saturday night in Orlando, Florida.
Williams has appeared in all seven games and ranks second on the team with 30½ tackles. A principal cornerback and occasional linebacker, he has also been an impact player with two tackles for a loss, seven pass breakups and a 45-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
“I love making big plays, and I pride myself on that big time,” Williams said. “If there’s a big play that I knew I could have made and nobody else sees it, I pride myself on getting better so I can make that play when the time comes. I work hard to make those plays.”
The hard-hitting, but easy-going rookie also brings intangibles in the form of leadership and camaraderie, which is reflected in his recent appointment as a team captain.
“I knew he was going to be a great player, and he’s been nothing but a pro since he’s been here,” said Pirates coach Anthony Payton, who lives just outside Louisville and got to know Williams when he played for the Cardinals.
“He does everything right, is a big hitter, and he’s been promoted to a captain, so I call him ‘Captain Chucky’ now. It’s just a treat to have him on the roster.”
Williams was tabbed a four-star recruit by ESPN coming out of high school and received scholarship offers from nearly 20 Power Five conference schools.
He originally planned to play receiver at Ole Miss, but switched to safety and Louisville after being convinced by then-Cardinals coach Charlie Strong he was bettered suited to defending passes rather than catching them.
Suffice to say, the positional change was literally a hit with him.
“When I was on defense, I got a chance to hit a few guys, and I loved the feeling of hitting people and not worrying about anything,” Williams said. “So it just took over me, and ever since then, I’ve been a defensive guy.”
One who went on to appear in all 39 games — starting all but one — over his final three seasons as Louisville went 25-14 and appeared in the Music City Bowl against Texas A&M, Citrus Bowl against LSU and Tax Slayer Bowl against Mississippi State.
All told, Williams hasn’t missed a game since he was a redshirt freshman in 2014, and that had more to do with the depth chart than durability.
“I guess it’s really my will,” Williams said. “There were times where I could have sat out or taken it easy, but this game can be taken away from you at any time, and it was taken away from me not because of injury but for reasons that were out of my control.
“With that being said, I went into this (with the Pirates) not worrying about injuries or anything else and just playing free and being happy to play the game, I feel like that’s what keeps me going.”
And after all that waiting, Williams couldn’t be happier to be going all out all the time for the Pirates.—Contact Rich Garven at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @RichGarvenTG