Football journey: Duke Williams

September, 28, 2013
9/28/13
5:00
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- When you think of Nevada football in recent seasons, one name likely comes to mind before all others: Colin Kaepernick.

The San Francisco 49ers quarterback, though, is just one of nine former members of the Wolf Pack drafted since their 13-1 campaign in 2010. Among them is safety Duke Williams, drafted by the Buffalo Bills last April.

The fourth-rounder has settled into a role on special teams, and with injuries continuing to bite the Bills' secondary, could be slated for a larger role on defense.

He sat down with ESPN.com this week to discuss his journey to the NFL:

[+] EnlargeDuke Williams
AP Photo/Scott BoehmDuke Williams is one of nine players to come to the NFL from the University of Nevada in the past three years.
Early beginnings in basketball: "I started off playing basketball. That was my first love. Because with football, you have expenses to play. You have to pay for equipment and traveling and things like that. From my family's standpoint, we weren't able to afford it. But basketball was free. I've played basketball most of my life."

Moving from Louisiana to Nevada: "I had family in Nevada already. I had uncles and aunts up there. Me, my mom, and my two sisters left and started over. I was young, probably 10 or 12 years old. It was just a different vibe for me. We had pretty much nothing when we moved to Nevada. But my mom took care of us and made sure everything we needed, we had."

Joining his high school team: "When I moved to Nevada, I kept on playing basketball. My first year playing football was my freshman year of high school. One of my best friends' father paid the expenses for me. I was fortunate to play then. Football came really natural to me. I flied around. Watching all my friends play football and me not playing, I didn't know how to actually stick my foot into it. I didn't know what to expect, how to actually play. All I knew was full speed. That was something I pride my game on, from day one. It was great for me to have the opportunity to play, so when I did I took advantage of it."

Favorite memory from Hug High School: "My first game as a freshman I played on the varsity team. I led the team in tackles. I had 12 tackles against the No. 3 ranked school in California. It was just fun, playing the game. When you have so much fun doing something, you fall in love with it."

Influence of his coach: "My high school coach [Rollins Stallworth] took me and my cousin in as his own. Whatever we needed, from food to clothes, anything, he provided that to us. He's been great. I still keep in contact with him now. I can't tell you how much of a help he's been for me since I was younger until now. I still interact with him, talk to him every single day. He's the one person that I really can give all my credit to."

Recruitment by Nevada: "My sophomore year, I had the opportunity to get a scholarship. The [University of Nevada] was only five minutes away from my high school campus. My cousin and I went to a camp that our school goes to annually at the university. There's a lot of schools from California there, schools from different areas that are competitive. Fortunately, my cousin and I got scholarships my sophomore year. I committed. I stayed loyal to my first offer. There were a lot of other offers afterwards, some great schools -- USC, Washington State, Fresno State, UNLV, Boise State, Arizona -- it was just great to see that notoriety and being able to make a name for yourself throughout all three sports."

Favorite memory at Nevada: "Being ranked No. 11 in the nation. We almost cracked the top 10, but for the first time in school history we broke the top 15. First time in school history two ranked opponents ever played in our stadium. That's the year we won the championship, 2010, Kaepernick's senior year. We beat the No. 3-ranked team in the nation. It was just great. That was just a great season. We went 13-1. We slipped up one game, we shouldn't have, but that was the greatest accomplishment in college."

Relationship with Kaepernick: "We talk here and there, how we're doing, how our season is going. He has some advice for me, has some great stuff for being a rookie and what I should expect, what obstacles I should look for. He was a lot of help and I still keep in contact with him today."

Taking pride in his journey: "[Football] kept us out of trouble. The area that [I] grew up in was in the low end of town, an urban area. There was a lot of things going around near us that could have led us to jail time or even worse. It was just a great outlet to stay away from that, be able to play ball, go to college and go to the NFL from it, so it's just great. I came from a long way from moving from Louisiana to Nevada. Just resilience and just being strong and being strong and having a great family to support me."

Moving to Buffalo from Nevada: "Yeah, East Coast period. I've been in New York once before I came here. That was my freshman year of college. I stayed for about a whole break, two or three weeks. It was different. Coming back, it's just like ... it's a whole other place. This is not the city. It's country. It's a mixture. It's a completely different vibe. I'm getting used to it. As long as I'm staying here, I have great teammates I hang around with and great veterans that helped me adapt, so it's pretty much been an easy transition."

Playing in snow: "A lot of people don't know, [the University of] Nevada is in the northern part of Nevada. It's not in Vegas where you get 120 degrees all year. We get the worst part of it. We get snow in the winter, a lot of snow. In the summers, it's blistering, probably 110 degrees. I get a little bit of both worlds. I have a Jeep, so I'm ready for the snow."

Making a mark on special teams: "Any time you take a snap on the field, whether you're on special teams, a punter, whatever you're doing, you have to make a mark. I take pride in this game, so if I'm on the field, I'm going to do my best. Wherever I fit in, I'm going to do my best. My role on defense is becoming bigger and bigger and I'm ready to take that on, also."

Goals for rookie season: "I have a lot of goals. Everyone wants to be a starter. Everyone wants to perform well. My goal is to get better every single day and be the best football player I can be and help this team win."

Mike Rodak

ESPN Buffalo Bills reporter

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