Chris Williams nearly chose to play on the Left coast the first time around as a CFL free agent.
Back in 2015, after two consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with Hamilton earned him stints with the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears, the diminutive playmaker inked a deal with Ottawa, but B.C. finished a close second. So when Williams hit the open market in February 2017, the Lions were a team he already felt comfortable with. A few teams were interested in the five-foot-nine, 155-pound speedster, but when it came down to making a final decision it was between B.C. and Toronto.
“B.C. had a lot going for them. They’re already a really good team and have people I’ve worked with in the past in Khari [Jones] and coach [Marcel] Bellefeulle, then you’ve got the legend Wally [Buono],” Williams says.
With players like Emmanuel Arceneaux, Bryan Burnhan, Chris Rainey and Jeremiah Johnson, Williams knew he wouldn’t be the main focal point for defences. The Lions had a similar skill group – proven quarterbacks and receivers especially – to what was around him in Ottawa.
As for the Argos, Williams liked the fact Tommy Condell was with the double blue.
“He’s got a great reputation for his offensive mind and how he works.”
However, without a head coach or general manager that made it difficult for Williams.
“You want to ask questions about where the team is going and where they’re headed and they couldn’t answer those at that time. Toronto, not saying they didn’t have a quarterback, but they were unsure of who they were going to go with. For my talents I don’t know if playing with those guys would’ve been as good as playing with Jonathan [Jennings] and Travis [Lulay],” Williams explains.
“In hindsight, they got [Marc] Trestman and [Jim] Popp in there, I played for Trestman before in Chicago so that would’ve been interesting had it gone the other way. But I’m very comfortable being in B.C.”
Signing a two-year deal with the Lions meant leaving Ottawa after the Redblacks won the 2016 Grey Cup.
“With me getting hurt [suffering a torn ACL last October], it was an awkward time because I had played so well and then got hurt, so there was an unknown,” Williams says. “They signed Kenny [Shaw] and Diontae [Spencer] and you pretty much knew Ernest [Jackson] and I weren’t going to come back.”
Ottawa moved on, as did Williams.
“That’s the business, that’s just how it works – it wasn’t anything personal. I very much enjoyed my time there and I have very much love for the organization. They treated me extremely well while I was there.”
So well, in fact, that Williams, who was awake for the surgery, had his knee repaired in the nation’s capital and did the first month of his rehab there, which he’s continued to progress on during the off-season.
“I’m doing a lot of stuff – running, jumping, cutting. It’s about getting the strength back into it so I can handle a full season,” Williams says. “We’re approaching [top speed level].”
Williams doesn’t see any reason why he won’t be ready for the regular season. And his new quarterback, Jennings, believes when the explosive playmaker hits the field he’ll be dangerous and could spring for huge plays at any moment.
“You can’t guard that type of guy one-on-one and if you get put in that situation we’ll make you pay,” BC’s young, budding star pivot says. “Our offence is loaded – we’ve got a lot of threats.”