Ticket to play

Roosevelt Williams is in a four-horse race for two starting spots in the secondary with Jonte Buhl...

Roosevelt Williams is in a four-horse race for two starting spots in the secondary with Jonte Buhl and veterans Malcolm Frank and Keyuo Craver. (Edmonton Sun/Walter Tychnowicz)

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

Roosevelt Williams can still remember seeing his first murder.

He was just six years old and growing up in the ghetto in Jacksonville, Florida.

"The first one was in a park," he stated.

"All the kids were playing basketball and football and some drug dealer was around the corner - and I looked over to the fence and saw somebody walk up to somebody and shoot him straight in the head.

"Ever since I have seen stuff like that."

Living in a drug-infested neighbourhood, it didn't take long for Williams to figure out that football was his only ticket out of the mayhem and misery.

Fortunately for him and his family, he got that ticket - and is now trying to extend that ride in Edmonton.

After an interesting journey through life and football, the former highly-touted NFL draft prospect is trying to win a very competitive battle for a starting position in the Eskimos' secondary.

And so far, he's making a very good statement after 10 days of training camp.

IMPRESSIVE PLAY

"From Day 1 I have been impressed," said receiver Trevor Gaylor.

"His man-to-man coverage is pretty impressive. He is real good reacting to the ball and has real soft hands. He creates turnovers; he doesn't just break the play up."

It's a four-horse race in the secondary for two starting cornerback spots between Williams, Jonte Buhl and veterans Malcolm Frank and Keyuo Craver.

At 37 years of age, Frank is the most vulnerable, especially with Williams and Buhl being at least a decade younger.

And Williams might have caught a small break.

With Frank on the sidelines with a hip-pointer, Williams is getting more of a chance to shine in practice.

But for the young guys, everything will likely hinge on the preseason games, which begin Saturday in Regina.

"I am excited to see how they do when the bullets are flying," said head coach Danny Maciocia.

Fortunately for Williams, the real bullets from his old neighbourhood are just an ugly memory.

"I signed (a scholarship) with Florida State out of high school, but I was off on my SAT by a point," said Williams.

He could have waited one week and written the SAT exam again to qualify for Florida State, but Williams didn't want to wait or study any longer.

So, he went to Tuskegee, a small historic black college in Alabama.

"But it worked out for the best," he explained.

"Going to a smaller school I had to work out harder than anybody (to get noticed) and when I came out I was one of the top 10 corners in the nation."

To this day, the six-foot-one, 200-pounder believes he should have been a first-round NFL pick. However, he slipped to the third round, where the Chicago Bears grabbed him.

LUCRATIVE CAREER

With hopes of a long and extremely lucrative NFL career on the table, Williams started a few games in his rookie year. But then the merry-go-round started.

"I had a high ankle sprain through the year and that didn't sit right with the defensive co-ordinator," said the 27-year-old.

Soon afterward he was cut and picked up by the Cleveland Browns, where he played seven games in 2003.

But he was cut again, which sent him to the New York Jets for a short cup of coffee.

And it appeared he was about to try a fourth NFL team this year until the Eskimos entered the picture.

"And I just wanted to get away from all the politics," said Williams, "and visit a new country."

Now he is hoping this new country will become his new home this summer.


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