Lions' UDFA Isaiah Williams wants to follow in footsteps he'll get close look at

With veterans coming in for OTAs next week, Lions' undrafted rookie Isaiah Williams will get a close look at a couple examples he hopes to follow.
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The Detroit Lions will ramp up OTAs next week when "Phase Two" starts. It primarily means the whole team will get some on-field work in together for the first time this offseason, with only rookie minicamp fitting that bill to this point.

The Lions made noteworthy investments in a few undrafted rookies. Wide receiver Isaiah Williams is among them, with $225,000 in guaranteed money coming his way. That points to the idea he probably should have been drafted, after back-to-back 82-catch seasons to finish his career at Illinois. Last season, he led the Big Ten in receptions and finished second in the conference in receiving yards.

But Williams is small (5-foot-9, 182 pounds), and he ran a 4.63 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Small and slow is a bad combination, and it will cause NFL teams to set aside what someone actually did on the field in college.

Per Justin Rogers of the Detroit News, Williams' agent told him more than 20 teams were interested in signing him as a UDFA.

So why the Lions? The reasoning from the rookie has a familiar sound these days.

Isaiah Williams about to get close look at footsteps he hopes to follow

Williams hit a familiar note with Rogers on why he chose to sign with the Lions.

"This culture fits me. I'm not a Hollywood-type dude," Williams said. "I'm not that type of player. I'm going to go out there and grind with a dawg mentality. I feel like that's Detroit through and through, gritty. That's how I play the game, that's my approach to the game. This was the perfect fit."

If the "too small and too slow" draft evaluation sounds familiar, it should. It's what caused Amon-Ra St. Brown to fall to the fourth round of the 2021 draft, and be the 17th wide receiver taken. It's also surely what caused fellow Lions' wide receiver Kalif Raymond to not be drafted at all in 2016.

St. Brown and Raymond stand as two of the hardest-working players on the Lions' roster. That's not a knock on anyone else, it's a testament to the famous post-practice JUGS machine routine St. Brown famously does and Raymond has also taken up. Rogers set the scene after the first practice of rookie minicamp.

"Established and accomplished veterans, St. Brown and Raymond weren't on the field for this weekend's rookie minicamp. Still, the familiar post-practice whir of the JUGS machine, and the repetitive thud of a football hitting receivers' hands was present. A half-hour of extra work after his first practice as a member of the Lions, undrafted rookie Isaiah Williams finally left the field."

Williams' agent, via Rogers, told him to watch Raymond's tape to see how an undrafted and undersized receiver can make an impact in the NFL. But St. Brown's path is also one Williams takes note of.

"Seeing how Amon-Ra was also a guy that ran a 4.6 — not the tallest guy — but on the field, he obviously plays faster," Williams said. "He's a ball player. He got an opportunity here, and because he's a ball player, he's flourished here. That's inspired me a lot."

After upcoming OTA practices, reporters on-site are now in line to see a new guy working on the JUGS machine with St. Brown and Raymond. Williams has a path to a 53-man roster spot, seemingly the clearest among Lions' undrafted rookies, and that effort to earn a roster spot will ramp up next week.

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