Ticats' Williams breaks kick return record — and the season's only half done
Tiger-Cats kick returner Chris Williams breaks and Argonaut tackle at Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton, Ont., Sept. 3, 2012. (CRAIG ROBERTSON/QMI Agency)
I don't usually buy into that 'worth the price of admission' nonsense.
The way tickets are priced for games in professional sports these days, hardly any one player is worth the price of admission.
But Hamilton Tiger-Cats punt returner/receiver Chris Williams may be an exception.
The second-year Tiger-Cat is probably the most exciting player in the CFL today, which he proved again on Monday afternoon by returning a Swayze Waters punt in the first quarter against the Toronto Argonauts for an 82-yard touchdown -- setting the CFL record for the most kick return TDs in a single season with six. And there are nine regular season games left.
"That guy's unbelievable," said Argos head coach Scott Milanovich, following Toronto's 33-30 comeback win over the Tiger-Cats in the final Labour Day Classic ever to be played at Ivor Wynne Stadium.
"Sometimes guys like that are just going to get their plays."
The amazing part of Williams' afternoon was, his TD punt return probably wasn't even the most exciting play of the afternoon. In the third quarter, Williams pulled in a Waters punt around the Hamilton 10-yard line and made at least four terrific dekes before cutting up the middle for a 63-yard gain, setting up a 40-yard field goal by Luca Congi.
Williams, 25, also pulled in one pass from QB Henry Burris for 52 yards and posted 158 total punt return yards, though the late-game collapse by the Tiger Cats put a damper on those accomplishments.
"It's definitely bittersweet," said Williams, when asked about his record-breaking season. "Anytime you're breaking records, you got to enjoy it to a certain extent. But we're not getting wins. This team is built to win a Grey Cup and the only way we're going to do that is to get some wins."
The last time the two southern Ontario rivals met up in July, Williams torched the Argos by scoring three touchdowns in three different ways, one on offence and two on special teams, via the punt return and a missed field goal return. He is now averaging a stellar 18 yards per punt return.
Williams is only 5-9, 155 pounds and came to the Tiger-Cats completely unheralded, but the former New Mexico State star has been turning plenty of heads around the CFL with his stunning punt returns.
"Chris Williams is a helluva football player," said Argos receiver Chad Owens. "He's probably the most explosive player in the league."
Owens knows a thing or two about being explosive. His 402 all-purpose yards on Monday was the third most all-purpose yards in CFL history and the most in team history.
With the loss to Toronto on Monday, the Tiger-Cats have now dropped four in a row and the front office is taking plenty of heat.
However, the deal they made on Feb. 24 of 2010 has to be considered one of the great robberies in CFL history, when they traded wide receiver Prechae Rodriguez to the Saskatchewan Roughriders for the negotiation rights to Williams and two other players. Rodriguez is now playing with the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League.
Probably because of his size, Williams was not drafted out of New Mexico State despite making 246 catches for 3,555 yards and 32 touchdowns for the Aggies, while also returning 42 kickoffs for 1,033 yards and two TDs.
In 2006, he led the nation in receiving yards per game (117.9) and catches per game (7.66) and was named a finalist in 2007 for the Biletnikoff Award, an award given to the nation's top wide receiver. He had a cup of coffee with the Miami Dolphins and the Cleveland Browns in 2009 and the Hartford Colonials of the UFL in 2010 before signing with Hamilton in 2011 and winning the CFL's top rookie award last season. Already a bonafide CFL star, the only thing missing from his resume is a colourful nickname, like former star CFL kick returners Henry (Gizmo) Williams, Michael (Pinball) Clemons and Earl (the Pearl) Winfield.
Then again, a colourful nickname really isn't Williams' style. He is one laid-back dude. Even in college, with his all his record performances, nobody graced him with a funky moniker, at least nothing that stuck.
"It was just the regular stuff," said Williams.
"Some of the guys called me C-Dog or C-Will. But no colourful, flashy nickname. I just go, man. I just play. I'm not really flashy. I know it sounds crazy, but I like to consider myself a receiver who can return. But I'll take it however I can get it."