Chapter 11: Fall forward and the story of Torrey Smith

January 21, 2018 | Nestor Aparicio

is a political aspect to the game as well. There are some things I had to control as a person as well.”

He returned home to Miami depressed, moved back in with the Golsons, and took a job selling DirecTV, where he worked for almost a year. The following winter, tiny Washburn, a Division II school in Topeka, Kansas, offered Williams the chance to come to the Midwest, but they wanted him to take it seriously.

“Man, no one else was interested in me,” he said. “I actually had a scholarship on the table at Hofstra University, and they just said they couldn’t do it because they heard some things about me at Fordham. That’s what it was. I ended up at Washburn, and it was one of the great times of my life there. It taught me to continue to work hard, to continue to put my head down, and to continue to believe in my faith so that everything would work out for the greater good.

He went to Topeka and never looked back, intercepting 11 balls in two seasons and catching the attention of the Tennessee Titans scouting staff when he was invited to an NFL Pro Day at University of Kansas. He impressed defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and was a 7th round draft pick of the Titans in 2008. He spent two years in Nashville trying to get onto the active roster, playing in just one game in his rookie year.

NFL teams cut and re-sign fringe players during the regular season based on two things: positional needs and whether they’re likely to lose a player on their developmental squad to another team who might claim him. Williams was cut several times by the Titans and on November 29, 2009, the Ravens claimed him. Or as one scout with the Ravens said: “We stole him!” Veteran scout Vince Newsome had always had his eye on the tall, lanky cornerback and thought he’d be a nice young player for the Ravens to work with on special teams because he hustled and had a mean streak. And who doesn’t love a 6-foot-1 cornerback?

Like many young players with potential, he was taken in and groomed by the Ravens’ leaders on defense, especially Ed Reed who saw potential in him and treated him like a little brother. He got on the field in 2010 on special teams and got better every week, and by the start of training camp in 2011, it was clear that he could play cornerback and start in the NFL. His entire makeup changed that season, when he got some restorative dental work done, his confidence grew on and off the field as he played his way ahead of 2011 first-round draft pick Jimmy Smith. After three years of NFL seasoning, Williams improved enough to earn the confidence of then-defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, who loved working with young, talented cornerbacks.

“The lord has been good to me,” Williams said. “He’s blessed me with so many friends and so many people in my corner even when I’ve done the wrong things. With his help, I’ve gotten to this point. It’s just amazing. It’s a tear-jerking experience to come where I came from. I always believed in my faith whether it was Liberty City, Fordham, or Washburn. I cherish these moments and give the lord all of the honor and the glory. Without him, I wouldn’t be here.”

Coming into the Cleveland game, Williams had been struggling after undergoing labrum surgery on his hip in the offseason so this was a coming out party. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said of the big play against the Browns. “I was glad I was able to recognize the route and the formation, and I was glad to make the play.”

Harbaugh went a step further. “Cary Williams was the difference in the game with an interception for a touchdown,” he said. “Here’s a guy that was under a lot of heat from [the media]. But he wasn’t under heat in our building because we know what kind of player he is