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Chris a rock for New Mexico State

DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer

When you ask defensive coaches around the Western Athletic Conference about New Mexico State receiver Chris Williams, they cringe, but speak in glowing terms.

At first glance, Williams doesn’t strike fear into your heart as the coaches’ comments would suggest. He is 5-foot-8 and barely weighs 150 pounds soaking wet. Appearances are deceiving, though.

Watch him play once, and you see why he is one of the most feared players in the conference, and why size doesn’t matter. Williams is a true game-breaker with the ability to score from anywhere on the football field whether it be after catching a pass from quarterback Chase Holbrook or returning a kickoff.

Not only does he have tremendous speed, but he has the unique ability to make opposing tacklers miss. Not every skill player has it, but Williams seems to own the franchise on it.

And, he has thrived in coach Hal Mumme’s run-and-shoot offense. He admits he is still learning the system, but he made tremendous strides last season. He went from 12 catches for 97 yards in 2005 to 92 catches for a 1,415 yards and 12 scores. The 92 catches and 1,415 yards were both school records. He also had a school-record seven 100-yard games.

Mumme said it’s Williams’ competitive spirit as much as natural talent that has made him such a good receiver.

“His heart more than makes up for his lack of size,” Mumme said. “He wants to win.

“Like when he was in high school. He was a (nearly) 7-foot high jumper. He’d go out there and attempt it every meet. Before he did that, he did five other events because he wanted his team to win.”

Williams, who was a running back in high school, scored 26 points his senior year in the New Mexico State Track & Field Championships. He won the 200-meter, the high jump and ran a leg on a winning relay team.

“I work hard because of my desire to be the best,” Williams said. “It’s the way I grew up. Both of my parents were college athletes. That helped me to be the best at what I try to do.

“I’m definitely still learning out here. This is only my third year at wide receiver. It’s trial by fire. This is a great offense for me. You have to make reads on the run. It’s a lot to learn. I spend at least four or five extra hours a week watching film. I’ll come in on Sundays and watch film. You learn from your mistakes.”

The key to defending Williams is to eliminate yards after the catch. That’s where he makes his living, making defensive backs look bad in the process.

What you have to love about Williams is he played his best games against some of the top teams in the WAC, and that’s what you expect out of your best players.

He had a 13-catch, 191-yard game against WAC champion Boise State in a 40-28 loss, and he followed that up the following week with a 160-yard effort and two scores against Hawai’i in a 49-30 loss.

Williams has become quarterback Holbrook’s go-to guy, a la Joe Montana and Jerry Rice and Kenny Stabler and Fred Biletnikoff. In clutch situations, Holbrook will look to Williams for a first down.

“He’s a year smarter,” Williams said of his quarterback. “He has a year (of starting) under his belt. He’s a big, strong quarterback with a good head.”

And, hopefully he’ll be wise enough to get the ball in Williams’ hands as much as possible this season.

WILLIAMS FILE

Position: Wide receiver

Year in school: Junior

Height/weight: 5-8/157

Major: Community Health