3DownNation top 100 CFL players: No. 69 DB/KR Frankie Williams, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

What do you call someone who is an award-winning return specialist and one of his team’s starting defensive backs? Frankie Williams and a top 100 player.

Williams’ journey to the CFL began in the Big Ten with the Purdue Boilermakers, where he ended his collegiate career with 227 tackles and ten interceptions.

The native of Tampa, Fla. went unselected in the 2016 NFL Draft, but signed with the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent. After playing in all four of the Colts’ preseason games, Williams was on and off the roster for the entire 2016 season, suiting up for three games and registering a tackle in Indianapolis’ 31-26 victory over the Green Bay Packers in Week 9.

He was let go by the Colts in the spring of 2017 and spent the year out of football before the Ticats signed him in February 2018. Williams came to the CFL like many American rookies — anonymous and with little fanfare.

The five-foot-nine, 190-pounder was announced as part of a batch of signings Hamilton made that winter, not dissimilar to how most American players are brought to the league.

In his first season with the Tabbies, Williams had modest production as the team’s starting field corner, totaling 17 defensive tackles. He played a role on special teams, making ten tackles, returning 40 punts for 383 yards and a touchdown as well as 18 kickoffs for 407 yards.

It was a successful, if unspectacular first year, but it was just the appetizer for what was to come in 2019.

Williams started hot to begin his sophomore campaign, returning a punt for a touchdown in the Ticats’ 23-17 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Week 1. Williams would continue to make big plays in the return game, finishing the season with a league-leading 949 punt return yards.

His 24.9 yards-per-kick-return average was second-best among players with at least 20 returns. He was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Special Teams Player.

But the return game the only area of the game in which Williams made an impact. He also started 17 games at field-side corner, ending the season with 50 defensive tackles, a somewhat rare feat for a position that sees little action in the Canadian game.

Playing a significant role on defence and special teams is rare in modern football. Concerns over player health and safety, as well as the increasing specialization of players, sees teams rarely use starters on one side of the ball on their special teams units.

Williams would probably make this list for his special teams play alone, but you add in what he does on defence and he is an easy pick as one of the league’s top 100 players.

3DownNation is unveiling its list of the top 100 active CFL players, a project that will run through December 31, 2020. To read the criteria for player eligibility, click here. The list to date can be found below.

70. DB T.J. Lee, B.C. Lions
71. QB Zach Collaros, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
72. SAM Anthony Cioffi, Free Agent
73. DB Shaquille Richardson, Toronto Argonauts
74. REC Kamar Jorden, Calgary Stampeders
75. OL Darius Ciraco, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
76. REC Jalen Saunders, Free Agent
77. QB Dane Evans, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
78. REC Brad Sinopoli, Ottawa Redblacks
79. RET Janarion Grant, Free Agent
80. DE Avery Ellis, Ottawa Redblacks
81. DE Cordarro Law, Calgary Stampeders
82. DB Brandon Alexander, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
83. OL Jermarcus Hardrick, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
84. DB Branden Dozier, Free Agent
85. SAM Otha Foster, Saskatchewan Roughriders
86. DB Antoine Pruneau, Ottawa Redblacks
87. RB John White, B.C. Lions
88. LB Avery Williams, Ottawa Redblacks
89. LB Jovan Santos-Knox, Free Agent
90. DB Richard Leonard, Calgary Stampeders
91. REC Armanti Edwards, Edmonton Football Team
92. RB C.J. Gable, Free Agent
93. DT Mike Rose, Calgary Stampeders
94. REC S.J. Green, Free Agent
95. DB Mike Edem, Saskatchewan Roughriders
96. DE John Bowman, Montreal Alouettes
97. DB Taylor Loffler, Montreal Alouettes
98. QB Nick Arbuckle, Ottawa Redblacks
99. ST Mike Miller, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
100. DE Chris Casher, B.C. Lions

Josh Smith has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.