Redskins' Doug Williams keeps an eye out for HBCU talent
By STEPHEN WHYNO
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) Reggie Barlow called Doug Williams to talk about a couple of his Virginia State players as potential rookie camp invites for the Washington Redskins.
Williams was convinced, so he gave receiver Zac Parker a shot.
Parker is one of a handful of players from Historically Black Colleges and Universities the Williams-led Redskins front office invited to rookie-camp tryouts. The group joined two undrafted free agent signings, Grambling running back Martez Carter and Southern cornerback Danny Johnson, on the field Friday trying to earn a job from a team with a reputation for giving HBCU products a look this time of year.
Williams, a Grambling star who also coached there twice, isn't the only NFL executive looking to HBCUs for talent. But Washington's senior vice president of player personnel and his scouts continue to invite several players from places like his alma mater, Southern, Texas Southern, Norfolk State and Alabama A&M in the hopes of adding depth to the roster.
"HBCUs, they might get looked down on a little bit more as maybe not a big school, but we have talent for sure," Parker said. "As you can see: Doug Williams went to an HBCU. He's the prime example of it."
His legacy as a Super Bowl MVP quarterback is common knowledge for Carter given his time at Grambling and for Johnson, who grew up in Louisiana not far from Williams' hometown. The name Doug Williams has value at places like Grambling and Southern - "He's in history," Carter said - and his reputation as an executive precedes him even for players 40 years younger.
"He just goes out and finds talent," said Johnson, who performed in front of Williams and about 15 other scouts at Southern's pro day. "Regardless of what school you went to - small school, big school - he makes a way for everybody to get a chance."
Parker, fellow receivers Norlando Veals from Alcorn State and Darvin Kidsy from Texas Southern, defensive linemen Richardson Johnson from Howard and Chris Lee from Norfolk State and tight end Dillon Beard from Southern were all brought in by the Redskins from HBCUs to try out at rookie camp.
Williams doesn't believe he's unearthing any secrets, though his presence in the Redskins' front office has already had an impact in hitting on one undrafted free agent from an HBCU. The team signed defensive lineman Anthony Lanier out of Alabama A&M two years ago, and he's now considered one of their best young prospects on that side of the ball.
Lanier picked the Redskins over several other interested teams because of Williams, who saw him play in college and complimented his game.
Carter and Johnson are trying to overcome the same long odds Lanier did to make the 53-man roster and appreciate the chance Williams and the Redskins are giving them.
"He knows how hard it is for guys like us at HBCUs to get notoriety and he knows how hard it is for guys to stand out due to all the big schools that surround us and kind of drown us out," said Carter, who at 5-foot-7 rushed for 854 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. "Just by him giving me the opportunity, it means a lot to me and I won't take it for granted."
Even though he was a first-round pick, largely because of then-Tampa Bay offensive coordinator and eventual Washington coach Joe Gibbs showing interest, Williams doesn't take his own path for granted and just wants to bring in the best players possible.
"It's not about a certain school, it's prospects," Williams said. "We send the scouts to where there are prospects. It just so happens Danny and Martez were prospects at Grambling and at Southern."
Now that they're Redskins prospects, Carter and Johnson feel a certain responsibility to prove to Williams he was right for signing them.
"I'm standing on some big shoulders," Carter said. "By him giving us this chance, it's a confidence boost. He sees something in us that other teams don't, obviously. He was a great athlete himself, so we just want to stand up to his standards."
NOTES: Coach Jay Gruden said G Arie Kouandjio is getting a second opinion on what is feared to be a torn quadriceps muscle. Washington re-signed G Shawn Lauvao last week before Kouandjio's injury that was first reported by NBC Washington. ... The Redskins confirmed first-round pick Daron Payne's first name is spelled without an apostrophe after he was known as Da'Ron at Alabama. ... Geron Christian, an offensive tackle out of Louisville selected in the third round, is the team's only unsigned draft pick.
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Updated May 11, 2018