Tennessee Auburn Football Williams

Auburn wide receiver Seth Williams (18), picked by the Broncos, catches a pass and is tackled by Tennessee defensive back Theo Jackson (26) and defensive back Trevon Flowers (1) during the first half of an NCAA football game Nov. 21, 2020, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

It was the summer of 2015 when Seth Williams realized just how good he was at football.

Williams, who was entering his sophomore year of high school at the time, was attending Alabama's summer football camp. Living 10 miles from Bryant-Denny Stadium, he put on a show for the school he grew up watching.

"I was making plays," Williams told The Gazette. "All the coaches were talking to me, asking me questions. And then I ended up winning the all-Saban Award from the camp. That gave me the confidence I needed and ever since then, I never looked back. I knew nobody could tell me I wasn't going to be great."

Now six years later, Williams is taking that same approach heading into Broncos rookie minicamp, which starts Friday. Some may be overlooking the former Auburn wide receiver after he slid to the sixth round of the NFL draft. But not those who have witnessed what Williams can do.

"You wonder what happened," said Eldrick Hill, Williams' high school football coach. "But he got in with a great organization and now it's time to roll. He's going to try and do everything right and he's going to bust his tail every day in practice to get better."

Williams has always been a standout athlete, with his dad, Robert, playing collegiate basketball at Stillman in Tuscaloosa. But few knew what he was capable of until his freshman year at Paul Bryant High School.

As a freshman, he played football on the freshmen, junior varsity and varsity squads, while also playing basketball and track and field.

"He was about 5-10 and 180 pounds as a freshman," Hill said. "He just had big, strong hands and was very raw. He started making plays immediately. He was our third-best receiver his freshman year. He would play a handful of snaps on the freshman team, score a couple touchdowns and then we'd pull him out so he could play on Friday nights."

After attending the Alabama camp following his freshman year, Williams skyrocketed as one of the top recruits in the country, with the Crimson Tide being his first offer in April 2016. He became a three-year starter at Paul Bryant, playing receiver on offense, safety on defense and punter on special teams — he averaged 45 yards per punt. He was also the occasional placekicker.

"He always made a huge impact," Hill said. "There were games where he'd hurdle a guy and go 80 yards. There were games where he'd catch three touchdowns and throw another one. There games where he'd get an interception or force a fumble to win at the end. And there were games where he'd rugby punt 45 yards and kick 30-plus-yard field goals.

"This is one of the most well-rounded kids that I've ever been around."

Meanwhile, in track and field, he ran a 10.6-second 100 meters, while also competing in the javelin, and being a state medalist in high jump and long jump. And on the basketball court, he was a two-year starter at small forward, helping Paul Bryant win the Alabama 6A state championship his senior year, averaging 12 points and eight rebounds.

He also broke two of the school's backboards from dunking in practice. He’s been dunking since middle school.

"He could have played basketball in college if he wanted," said Shon Peck-Love, Williams' high school basketball coach. "We kind of played him everywhere. Sometimes we'd put him in the post because of his leaping ability. He kind of did it all. He was a ball of energy. He could rebound, he could score, he was a high-flyer — he loved to dunk."

By his senior year, Williams grew to be 6-foot-3, 210 pounds. His athleticism, which he attributes to playing multiple sports, had him ranked as the 10th-best athlete in the country by ESPN. Many believed he could play different positions in college, from wide receiver to safety to tight end, which is what then-Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin thought he would play for him.

But Williams eventually chose Auburn over Alabama, saying he felt at “home” with the Tigers. And in his three seasons at Auburn, he became one of the top targets, totaling 132 receptions for 2,124 yards and 17 touchdowns. He was their go-to guy in the red zone, as he rarely lost 50-50 balls.

“I think I grew a lot, coming into Auburn as a raw athlete playing receiver,” Williams said. “Freshman year, playing with Ryan (Davis) and Darius (Slayton), they taught me a lot my freshman year. And then my sophomore year, I kept it going. And then my junior year, I had to teach the freshmen and work at the same time. So I gained a lot of leadership skills."

Williams said he thought hard about returning to the Tigers after a somewhat down year in 2020 — he was still Auburn’s top receiver with 760 yards and four touchdowns, which was 70 yards and four touchdowns less than what he had in 2019. But ultimately, Williams felt like he was ready for the NFL, knowing he has areas he can improve on — specifically his route running and creating separation.

“I feel like I’ve got a lot of growing room for it, as far as playing receiver,” Williams said.

Williams has a lot of upside thanks to his athleticism, which is why the Broncos were surprised to get him in the sixth round. He had an impressive pro day, recording a 4.5 40-yard dash, 37-inch vertical and 124-inch broad jump.

Broncos GM George Paton said Williams stood out to him as someone who can help immediately on special teams and eventually be an elite offensive weapon.

“He is like a piece of clay. He's really talented. He's big and he can run,” Paton said. “As a receiver, he just needs to be molded. (Receivers coach) Zach (Azzanni) can't wait to get a hold of him and develop him.”

So while he enters a wide receiver room full of talent in Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler, don’t be surprised if Williams is someone who sticks out not only this weekend and throughout the offseason, but in the coming years.

“We always knew he was special,” Hill said. “Now he has a chance to really show it.”

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