PULLMAN — When Washington State running backs coach Eric Mele heard a former pupil had signed a free-agent contract with Indianapolis on Tuesday, he quickly touched base with Colts coach Frank Reich.
“Let’s get Boobie going over there,” Mele said in a text after the Cougars’ practice.
“Boobie” is James Williams, who’s been waiting two months to get another NFL opportunity since surprisingly getting released by the Kansas City Chiefs in June.
Mele, before coming to WSU, was an assistant for Wingate University coach Joe Reich, who is Frank’s brother. Mele doesn’t claim to have influenced the Colts staff in their decision, but called the move “fantastic.”
The Colts have eight running backs on board, which means Williams needs to impress unambiguously if he’s to survive roster cuts in the next several days. But the receiving skills that allowed him to make 202 catches for the Cougars should serve him well in Indy’s offense.
Williams forfeited his senior season at WSU to turn pro but went unselected in the NFL draft in April. He quickly signed with the Chiefs but failed to get past the first wave of cuts, later telling Bleacher Report he found the playbook daunting. He was diagnosed with ADHD as a child and frequently has spoken about the challenges he faces in learning new concepts.
His fiancee, Rye Hewett of Lewiston, gave birth to a boy, Rush, a month ago. Williams has said the addition to their family — Hewett also has a daughter — gives him extra motivation to succeed as a pro.
Washington State transitioned into game-week preparation mode, meaning its practice structure resembled that of a normal Tuesday during the season.
Anthony Gordon, who has pulled ahead in the race for a starter’s role at quarterback, again took about two-thirds of the reps in practice, and coach Mike Leach said he doesn’t anticipate that changing soon. Veteran center Fred Mauigoa, who skipped the Cougars’ scrimmage Saturday, was back in action but wore a yellow jersey to indicate a physical issue.
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