Written by Evan Tate- Terry Williams enjoyed his breakout CFL season last year, submitting himself as a premier kick returner in this league. Starting the season with the REDBLACKS, the 5’9” speedster was traded to the Lions in Week 12 and continued to perform at the highest level, ending the season as the CFL leader in kick return yards, and fourth on punt returns.
Although he didn’t receive any college offers coming out of high school, Williams always had his eyes set on pro football and understood the grind it would take to get there. He joined the Itawamba Community College football team in Mississippi as a walk-on.
“I always dream big every step of my career. Coming out of high school I knew I didn’t have any scholarship offers, but my dream was to play college ball. And then my next part of my dream was to start in college, the next part of the dream was to go pro.”
The Mississippi native then transferred to the University of Tennessee-Martin to join their Division-1 program for his final two years of eligibility. Williams left Itawamba College as the all-time leader in receiving yards and became an integral part of Tennessee-Martin’s offensive and special team units, earning HERO Sports All-American First-Team selection in his senior year.
“Every step of the way, I always tell myself I belong, and I can make plays just like everybody else, so you just had to go out and do it. And also, you know, using the chip on my shoulder that I always had to try to prove other people wrong.”
Williams credits his resilient and never-quit attitude to his mother, Angular Robinson, who showed him from a young age what working hard looked like.
“Watching my mother growing up, I’d always watch her leave and go to work. Two jobs or three jobs and she’s never ever complained or anything, she was always working hard. I was like, there’s no way I can’t work hard, seeing her work like that my whole life and never complaining. So I was like just work hard and it’ll pay off, and that’s something I’ll do for the rest of my life.”
The 27-year-old is also having a solid first training camp with the Lions in Kamloops, making a few big catches in Saturday night’s FanFest scrimmage. Despite being far from his mom geographically, Williams made sure to do something nice for her while he was away on Mother’s Day.
“I had a couple of gifts already wrapped up, and when I called my fiancée, she put my mom on the phone and we gave her gifts, we gave her flowers. I was really excited about that.”
Adding that the change of scenery in this camp compared to others has been a big positive.
“This camp is different because it’s in Kamloops. I’ve never seen anything like this. The views are crazy. Walking around exploring, seeing animals, seeing deer pop up right past you early in the morning is great,” he added.
Nowadays the 170-pound receiver/returner is known for his quickness and elusiveness, running home a remarkable 126-yard missed convert in last season’s playoffs.
“I really had to work on it. I was never the gifted one. Speed, all that, I had to work on it. Hard work beats talent when talent fails is one of my favorite quotes.”
He adds: “I never hit a growth spurt, I was always 5’9, but I never played my size. I never told myself, ‘I’m 5’9 so I can’t go up and get the ball, I can’t jump up.’ I always played big.”
Williams, who has been primarily a kick returner thus far in his CFL career, was starting to get snaps at wide receiver with Ottawa last season. In eight games with the Lions, Williams didn’t see a single offensive snap but helped elevate the struggling special teams.
Excited for his first full season in BC, Williams is looking to slot in wherever he is needed and is prepared for any role on the field.
“I’m just looking to help in any way I can. If they want me to kick return, punt return, or do some receiving, anyway I can help, I’m willing to help. I just want to win,” the speedster explained.
“If they want me to hold a snap for the kick, I want to help.”
Entering year three of his CFL career, Williams is looking to “be ready” anytime his number is called and ultimately wants to see the team succeed.
“I just want the team to be as one, all around, and the rest of it will take care of itself,” he said.
“Right now in camp, everybody’s excited, everybody’s competing at a high level. If we just keep doing that, it’s on the way, you know, everything’s on the up and up.”