As if Ticats playmaker Chris Williams wasn’t fast enough.
The diminutive receiver and return man - voted by his peers as the fastest player league-wide in TSN’s 2011 player poll - ran on dirt, yes dirt otherwise known as soil, to push his top end speed up another gear.
In preparation for the 2012 campaign, Williams spent time training on an arroyo. To answer the question that almost assuredly just popped into your head, if you’ve never heard of an arroyo before like yours truly, it is a dry water-carved channel that seasonally fills and flows after rainfall in places with arid climates.
Okay no more national geographic talk. You get the idea by now. An arroyo is essentially a big open area of dirt with the odd mound or hill.
The state of New Mexico, where Williams was born and makes his off-season home, has arroyos that stretch for miles.
“Me and one of my friends, who plays basketball overseas, we really got into running in dirt - running hills up the dirt and sprinting in the dirt,” Williams explained. “It was right behind my apartment, so it was easy access I didn’t really have to leave my house to do it.”
Williams definitely found advantages to his outside-the-box training method of mucking it up in the dirt.
“It just gives you a different texture and works a different muscle group,” he said. “It’s an uneven surface, it makes it harder, it’s not easy to run in – it’s basically like running in beach sand. The dirt was that thick and dense.”
“Sometimes I would run in my cleats. Other times I would just run in flats, it just depended on what I was trying to do that day. Sometimes I would run routes in the dirt.”
Williams has certainly made more than a few would-be tacklers look like they were running in dirt trying to catch him on the football field so far this season. Many opposition players have bit the dust left by a trail blazed to the end zone by number 80 in Black and Gold.
Hamilton’s six-quick threat leads the CFL in touchdowns scored with five after a spectacular showing against the Argonauts in which he notched a hat-trick of majors. In fact, he became the first player to record a touchdown three different ways in one game since 1995 when Cory Philpot and Eric Blount accomplished the rare feat.
Williams’ three scoring plays against the Double Blue, a 34-yard reception, 89-yard punt return and 119-yard missed field goal return, showcased his improved dirt-running burst.
Although, some people have questioned Williams, wondering if he is indeed running at a 100 per cent level of effort on the field.
“A lot of people ask me if I’m running full speed,” He said. “I tell them yes and they don’t necessarily believe me because it doesn’t look like I’m huffing and puffing and grinding hard. But I am running I can assure you that.”
“He plays with such fluidity that I’m not sure people realize how fast he is,” Ticats special team coordinator Jim Daley said. “It’s effortless to see him run at full speed and to make a cut.”
Daley has been drawing up a variety of ways to utilize Williams’ fleet feet in his schemes and stated that it was the plan all along to have him play a big part in the Ticats return game.
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“We rested him in camp, allowed him to concentrate on offence, but he caught punts everyday,” Daley said. “We didn’t bring him in a pre-season game knowing full well that to start the regular season he would be the lead or second guy.”
However, there is a balance to be struck.
“He plays 65 offensive plays a game so you have to monitor that you’re not overdoing it or you will affect his play on offence and over work him,” Daley said. “I deal with Chris and he’ll just tell me if he needs a rest. Sometimes I’ve just made a decision to give him a play off if he’s had a long offensive series or a short turnaround.”
“We want to keep him as fresh as possible because there’s going to be times where we have to have a big return and we want him fresh.”
It seems as though the Ticats have proportioned Williams’ offensive and return reps properly to start the season, as his game appears to have reached another level.
With the kind of speed Williams continues to show off, something tells me running on dirt might just become the new training craze.