Terrance Williams watched his good friend, Kendall Wright, leave Baylor for the 2012 NFL Draft, opening the door for Williams to star. But that felt different than this.
Miles Austin’s departure from the Dallas Cowboys promoted Williams to the No. 2 receiver spot, and the second-year player admits he doesn’t know how to feel about it.
“It’s kind of new,” Williams said during Baylor’s pro day on Wednesday. “I really don’t know how I feel. It’s like my first time seeing stuff like this. In college, it’s completely different.
“He’s a good dude, and I wish the best for him. I thank him for the stuff he taught me. I felt like without him and Dez [Bryant], the first game, it probably could’ve gone downhill from there. Those two guys kept me in it. They taught me about their mistakes and overall different ways I can do stuff. … It’s kind of weird. You get so close to a guy and then, a year later, they’re not there. I really don’t know what to expect.”
The Cowboys designated Austin a post-June 1 cap casualty, moving on from the veteran in part because of their confidence in Williams.
Williams, a third-round pick in 2013, posted better numbers than Austin did last season. Williams caught 44 passes for 736 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie, while Austin’s final hamstring-hampered season in Dallas ended with 24 catches for 244 yards and no touchdowns.
Williams made eight starts last season despite not being a “starter” on the depth chart. He enters 2014 with that word attached to his name.
“He could have started his rookie year,” Wright said. “He’s ready for all that expectations. He had some hard games where I talked to him last year where he fumbled or dropped a pass. I told him to just keep playing. That’s what he did. He overcame. He’ll be a great player for the Cowboys.”
Williams and Wright share a place in Waco, working out together under the direction of Baylor strength and conditioning coach Kaz Kazadi. Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III frequently is the quarterback in the duo’s on-field workouts.
Williams, 24, has talked to Bryant, new play-caller Scott Linehan and receivers coach Derek Dooley since Austin’s announced release. He understands the expectations for him in his second season.
“I have to continue doing my job and showing them why they brought me here,” Williams said, “and it’s just going to be a step that I’m going to have to just suck up and do my job the way they brought me here to do. … Seeing [Austin] leave, it’s sad, but we still have to do our job to the best of our abilities.”
Williams, a Dallas native, caught 97 passes for a nation-leading 1,832 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior at Baylor after replacing Wright as the go-to wideout. But a 4.52 time in the 40-yard dash and questions about his route running dropped Williams to the third round.
Baylor coach Art Briles is convinced the Cowboys got a steal.
“We felt great about Terrance all along,” Briles said. “I thought the Cowboys got a first-round talent in the third round without question, because of everything he brought to the table … with his tenacity, toughness, discipline, ambition and just an unwavering work ethic. That’s hard to combine.
“Then, you start putting height, speed, talent, hands, skill on top of it, and you’ve got a complete player. He’ll have a long life in the league, without question.”