Former BYU running back Ty’Son Williams has the size and athleticism to get a shot at a pro career — but he also got hurt in 2019 and only played four games for the Cougars.
As part of a normal NFL draft process, he would be visiting pro teams and getting physicals to show that he had recovered from his injury.
But, as everyone knows, 2020 is not a normal year.
Mark Flores of Pillar Sports is Williams’ agent and said in a phone interview Wednesday that circumstances have provided some challenges for his client.
“Something that happens at pro days for guys coming off injuries like Ty’Son is that they have a chance to show they are healthy,” Flores said. “Scouts get a chance to see them in person and get a sense for where they are physically. Not having the pro day really hurts. The other thing is that once team facilities got shut down, teams couldn’t bring in guys like Ty’Son to do physicals.”
He said he had talked to a number of teams who are convinced Williams can play in the NFL.
“They say he is a guy they want to bring in — as soon as they can get a physical on him,” Flores said. “We have other teams who aren’t as concerned about it but for those who are more conservative and weren’t able to bring him in, he’s not going to be ranked as highly as some other players.
“Ty’Son has done everything right. His work ethic coming off the injury, his focus, his determination and discipline, all those things enabled him to come back so much quicker than someone with less focus could have. But the message — and he understands it because he is a super-sharp guy — is that this could be a long period before a contract is signed or he could get drafted.”
Although the result for Williams could fall anywhere on a wide spectrum, Flores said it hasn’t diminished Williams’ confidence.
“His message from Day 1 was always positive,” Flores said. “He said he trusts his abilities, he just needs an opportunity. He knows that opportunity is going to come and however it gets there he will be ready for it. That’s what he has told me over and over again.”
Williams is one of thousands of football players across the country who have been building to this weekend. The NFL Draft kicks off with the first round on Thursday, the second and third rounds on Friday and then the last four rounds on Saturday. That’s then followed by the free-for-all of post-draft free agent signings.
Evan Brennan, an agent based in Orem, said in a phone interview on Wednesday that he expects it to be even more intense this year than in years past.
He represents former BYU defender Dayan Ghanwoloku and wide receiver Aleva Hifo, both of whom have gotten significant interest from teams this year.
“Dayan has had a lot of interest,” Brennan said. “He’s a very highly coveted special teams player who can play nickel and safety. He’s probably not going to be drafted but I imagine he will have double-digit offers from teams after the draft.
“Aleva is a guy who has had probably 15-20 teams call. He’s a versatile player but this is the deepest wide receiver draft in the last decade. He will sign with a team that is going to use him as a slot weapon and a great returner. He’s probably a practice squad player his first year but may compete for a roster spot in the perfect situation.”
Brennan said the pressure on players and agents is higher in 2020 because of the collateral damage of efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“There are no mini-camps, no tryouts,” Brennan said. “Everyone will show up at training camp — whenever that is — and learn the playbook instantaneously. A scout I was talking to compared it to a strike year when there wasn’t a lot of the preseason stuff. He said that that year they cut a lot of guys really quickly because they couldn’t pick up the playbook. We don’t have time for that. My message to the guys now is that when they get that playbook, it has to be in their head and they can’t make mistakes because they will move on quicker than any time before.”
He said as an agent he feels the pressure to get guys contracts but also said NFL teams have limited resources for vetting potential players.
“It’s on you as an agent to inform them and do it with credibility — which is way easier said than done,” Brennan said. “I’ve got a lot of great players this year across the country and I’m used to getting phone calls, but this is a new level of phone calls and inquiries. I’m hunting down trainers at colleges trying to get medical records — something I’ve never done. I’ve had to stage pro days with camera crews and former scouts. I’ve never had to do stuff like that. It’s intensive.”
One of the sacrifices has been no school-based, in-person pro days, which means athletes have had limited chances to get noticed.
“There are a lot of guys out there who really rely on those pro days to get noticed,” Flores said. “I tell guys that their whole focus on pro day is to put in the kind of performance that forces a team to go back and look at your film.”
But after all the work and trying to overcome the numerous obstacles, it’s now just waiting to see what happens.
“This is a little bit like Christmas,” Flores said. “Starting two days after last draft, you start thinking about what players you want to recruit and try to sign for next year. You are digging through all the information you can, talking to coaches and talking to scouts who are willing to talk with you. You get a plan going into September and watch the players develop. At the end of the season and the bowl season, everyone is making a mad dash to sign the guys they are going to sign and get them to the places they are going to train. The guys work like crazy and you are trying to make sure they have everything they need.”
Months and sometimes years of effort culminates in NFL draft week.
“All of that effort on their part and your part boils down to what teams are going to do over a three-day period — and then it’s done,” Flores said.