Quietly Catching On

October 09, 1994|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Sun Staff Writer

Philadelphia --Calvin Williams had just torched the San Francisco 49ers for a career-high nine catches for 122 yards in the Eagles' 40-8 victory last Sunday, but as he sat in front of his locker, all Williams talked about was how great quarterback Randall Cunningham played.

"This was vintage Randall," Williams said.

But Calvin. . .

"He really made the big plays," Williams said.

But Calvin. . .

"Forget about it," said Fred Barnett, the Eagles' other starting receiver. "Calvin is as quiet as a cat. He's not going to talk about himself. Never has and never will. He's a very humble individual."

Deion Sanders, he's not.

If Williams had half of Sanders' flair for self-promotion, he'd be mentioned in the same breath with Jerry Rice, Andre Rison, Michael Irvin and Sterling Sharpe as one of the game's best.

Instead, he has quietly become one of the league's best $H receivers.

"He's on my top five list," said J. B. Brown, cornerback of the Miami Dolphins.

"He's the most underrated receiver in pro football," Fox TV analyst John Madden said recently.

"I've gone against the best in the league week in and week out for seven years," said Eagles cornerback Eric Allen. "I've had to go against Calvin every day in practice. He's as good as any of them. One day he's going to get his recognition, but Calvin is not going to go out and campaign for All-Pro honors himself."

Williams is a loner by nature, living during the off-season in a quiet Randallstown neighborhood. He is a disciplined 27-year-old, far from the image of a free-wheeling and free-spending modern athlete. He grew up in an East Baltimore project, lives in a modest home and drives a Dodge Ram truck.

He's a Christian and a vegetarian who usually dresses in jeans and a T-shirt or jeans and a sweat shirt, depending on the weather. Almost everything he does is planned. His locker is meticulous; even his coins are neatly stacked.

Williams has a degree in restaurant management from Purdue and someday may open a restaurant in Philly when his playing days are finished.

"I have always been low-key, very quiet," said Williams, a former

Dunbar High standout. "I've never been the type to get caught up in all this NFL hoopla. Because after it all ends, there are a lot of players who can't get over the large crowds and the excitement. They go around feeling someone still owes them something. I don't want to end up like that."

Williams started to be noticed last season when he became the Eagles' primary receiver after Barnett went down with a knee injury in the fourth game. He responded by catching 60 passes, including 10 for touchdowns, fourth best in the league behind Rice (15), Rison (15) and Sharpe (11).

Barnett is healthy again. But as Williams proved last week, he will hardly fade into the background. Through four games, Williams has 22 catches for 326 yards and three touchdowns. He's on an 88-catch, 1,304-yard pace.

"He's a great player," Cunningham said. "In the past, Calvin was the clutch guy, the person I went to on third-and-seven. Now, he's going to keep on doing more and more in this offense."

Williams has emerged with the development of the offense. In the past, the Eagles had no running game, and their offensive line was suspect, putting a great deal of pressure on Cunningham.

But the Eagles have used the draft to build the offensive line (three No. 1 picks are starters) and rookie running back Charlie Garner gives the rushing attack its missing ingredient -- a long scoring threat.

"We're more balanced now, and when we line up, people can't concentrate on stopping one person," said Williams, 5 feet 11 and 190 pounds. "The rushing attack has certainly made our passing game more effective. Now, all we have to do is keep doing what we're doing and stay focused."

Williams has always been focused; he spent his sandlot days in Baltimore pretending to be NFL running back Gregg Pruitt.

Although Philadelphia is only a 90-minute drive up I-95, it has been a long journey for Williams from the days he was an All-Metro football and basketball player at Dunbar.

Williams came to the Eagles as an unheralded fifth-round pick out of Purdue in 1990, the third of four receivers drafted by the Eagles. By the end of training camp, then-coach Buddy Ryan had replaced starter Cris Carter with Williams.

"I was a third-round pick and Calvin was a fifth," Barnett said. LTC "Buddy took a lot of heat for drafting us. Then the next thing we know is that we're in the starting lineup. We had to grow up quickly, which meant Calvin had to work extremely hard. He's done everything he's had to do to become an excellent receiver."

Williams can do it all. He's been timed at 4.3 in the 40 and runs exceptional patterns, especially inside the opposition's 20-yard line. But during the past five years he has become known more for his acrobatic catches than his precision routes.

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