Boise State special teams ace Avery Williams is heading to Atlanta.
Williams was selected with the pick No. 39 in the fifth round (No. 183 overall) Saturday during the third day of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Most experts projected Williams to come off the board in the seventh round, so getting picked in the fifth even caught him a little off guard.
“It was unreal to actually realize I was getting the call and to see the Atlanta area code,” Williams told the Statesman on Saturday afternoon. “I couldn’t be more excited to be part of a high culture organization and to be able to add my energy to it.”
This year marks the first time since 2018 that Boise State didn’t have a player picked in the first three rounds, but the Broncos have had a player drafted for 12 straight years, dating back to 2010.
Williams was the second Boise State player selected this year, following tight end John Bates, who went to Washington in the fourth round.
He spent the third day of the draft with a small group of family and friends at the home of local Pastor Mark Thornton, and Williams said he’ll head to Atlanta sometime in the next week.
“I couldn’t be more excited to be part of a high culture organization and to be able to add my energy to it,” Williams said.
The 5-foot-8, 187-pound native of Pasadena, California, joined the team at Boise State as a walk-on and went on to earn the title of Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year the past two seasons. He finished his college career with nine special teams touchdowns, and he plans to carry that walk-on mindset into the NFL.
“All the hard work I’ve put in this far got me to this stepping stone and it doesn’t stop here,” he said.
Last season, Williams won the Jet Award, which goes to the best return specialist in the country, and he became the first consensus All-American from Boise State since former offensive lineman Nate Potter in 2011.
He also started 21 consecutive games at cornerback for the Broncos, but Williams is looking at a position change in the NFL. At his pro day in March, he said teams wanted to see him work out as a running back and slot receiver as well as defensive back.
He’s not concerned about where he’s going to line up at the next level, though. He just wants to get to work and let everything else sort itself out.
“The great thing about my skill set is I can adjust to any scheme and any fit,” Williams said.
His most immediate impact for the Falcons is likely to be as a punt or kicker returner. Last season, Brandon Powell led Atlanta with 8.9 yards per punt return and averaged 20.2 yards on 17 kick return.
Williams posted impressive numbers at his pro day in March, including a 4.41-second 40-yard dash and 19 reps on the bench press, which matched Bates, who outweighs him by about 60 pounds.