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Livin’ on the edge: The journey of De Williams and what it could mean for the Cowboys

The Cowboys are no strangers to taking big risks.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 06 Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game - Louisville v Ole Miss Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys are notorious for taking risks in the second round. With big-name gambles like Randy Gregory and Jaylon Smith, it’s sort of been something we’ve grown accustomed to over the years. The trend continued a few years ago with the selection of Trysten Hill, who came with red flags due to problems with his coaching staff at Central Florida that resulted in reduced playing time. And let’s not forget last year’s second-round risk, Kelvin Joseph, who was suspended while at LSU for violating team rules. He ultimately transferred to Kentucky before the Cowboys took him with the 44th overall pick a year ago. Joseph’s questionable judgment has already been brought into question as he remains part of a police investigation that is connecting him to a fatal drive-by shooting a couple of months ago.

That is why it should come as no surprise that the Cowboys selected rising star pass rusher, Samuel Degarrick Williams, with their second-round pick this year. “De” Williams is a prime example of a huge risk/reward pick. His past is littered with red flags, but at the same time, his raw ability opens the door for him to be a true game wrecker at the next level. Cowboys fans will have a front-row seat to see how this plays out, but before we go on that journey together, let’s lay everything on the table and examine what we are looking at with the team’s new edge rusher.

A rough upbringing

Williams had about as unstable of an upbringing as you could imagine. He was removed from his mom’s custody at the age of just six years old where he and his siblings lived with his grandmother. But that was short-lived when his grandmother died a few years later where he then lived with his aunt. Williams would change homes yet again during his high school years when the mother of one of his friends became his legal guardian.

Despite a rocky upbringing, Williams will be the first to tell you that he’s grateful for it. He credits it for making him into what he is today. The rough past allows him to appreciate what he has, and he claims that he will not take those things for granted.

Questionable decisions off the field

A lot of the bouncing around Williams did early in his life is through no fault of his own. That, however, was not the case when he was expelled from Marbury High School when he was involved in an off-campus knife incident. According to Williams, he was in the woods with some of his teammates who were playing with a knife. He, along with his teammates, was expelled for this incident. While the details of this ordeal are rather vague, the result forced Williams to relocate yet again midway through his high school tenure.

The knife incident in high school is minute compared to what came next. During his second year at Ole Miss, Williams was suspended from their program after he was arrested on felony charges of sexual assault. The University of Mississippi released a statement that stated they take these charges very seriously and would allow the legal process to take place before taking additional action against it. It did, and two months later the charges were dropped and he was allowed to return to the team.

Still learning

Williams’ journey has always been full of change. Not only did he change high schools after being expelled, but he also had to start his college career off at Northeast Mississippi Community College because he didn’t have the grades to get into one of the bigger-named programs. A basketball star in high school, Williams had very little football experience entering college, but during his two years in JUCO, he started developing his craft. He eventually started turning heads and become one of the top junior college recruits, receiving offers from several big-name schools. During his time at Ole Miss, Williams showed gradual improvement, culminating in a 12.5-sack season last year, and just like that, he had the attention of NFL teams.

What’s next?

While Williams is coming off one fantastic season of college production, his game is laced with rawness. His pash-rushing attack can be a little scattered as he possesses more of a get-up-and-go approach rather than a pre-determined intention. While he has nice length and agility to bounce off of blocks, his lack of instincts limits his effectiveness against the run. And it’s hard not to question his football readiness when he’s coming off such an extensive list of undisciplined personal foul penalties last season.

There are many reasons to be unsettled about this draft pick as the concerns are plentiful. But there are also many reasons to be hopeful about where this can go. Williams has phenomenal athletic traits. Edge rushers who are both explosive and long can do a lot of damage. He has enough speed and power to knock blockers back and create space to attack. And he plays with nastiness and violence that will come in handy when he’s out there livin’ on the edge.

In conclusion...

This will truly be one of those wait-and-see selections. The Cowboys have assured us that they’ve done their homework with their character evaluation of Williams; homework that has included spending time with him at his Pro Day where defensive coordinator Dan Quinn worked him out exclusively. They seem happy with the type of man he is. As a father of a one-year-old son, it’s certainly possible Williams has his priorities set straight. If the team can harness all those great traits and coach him up to clean up his mistakes, the Cowboys might find themselves with one of the gems of this draft class.