Back together once again
New Stamps’ careers have a few parallels
It’s only natural Keron Williams and Shannon James should make their pro football debuts on the same playing field. Consider these facts: On Sept. 7, 2002, they each played their first college game at the University of Massachusetts — a 52-3 win over Central Connecticut State.
On Nov. 9, 2005, their collegiate careers ended together with a loss to Hofstra.
On May 1, 2006, they both signed National Football League contracts — Williams with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and James with the Baltimore Ravens.
On Sept. 10, 2006, they both joined the Calgary Stampeders.
On Oct. 15 — this coming Sunday — their Canadian Football League careers take flight at McMahon Stadium against the B.C. Lions. James will start at strong-side linebacker and Williams will play defensive end.
“Keron’s girlfriend had a dream one time that we’d be playing together on the same team,” James said, on Friday afternoon. “To be here with him . . . it’s crazy.”
Not only did these former Minutemen wear the same colours for four years, they’ve actually been good friends since their sophomore season in 2003. Last year, they were defensive co-MVPs for the team and now they’re sharing a downtown apartment and chasing the same dream.
“When I first thought about coming up here, I was like, ‘ Ah, I don’t know, Canada . . .’ said James, a Division 1-AA All-American the past two seasons. “But, when I heard he was coming, I was excited about going. I’ve got somebody going through the same thing I’m going through and I’m tight with him. It helps a lot.”
Since the duo arrived last month, all they’ve done is turn heads at nearly every practice. With the Stamps preparing for a playoff push, the rookies now have a chance to figure prominently.
They’re physically fresh, eager to play and, apparently, capable of making a quick impact.
“We complement each other — I get to the quarterback, he gets the pick,” said Williams, referring to their track record. “Together, we’re going to bring a lot of speed to the defence, instincts, getting to the quarterback.
“I’m just looking at the opportunity as trying to win the next play. I don’t care about the next game or anything like that. When you win the next play, good things will happen.”
A six-foot-one, 254-pounder, Williams earned a shot with the Bucs because of his stellar senior season. He’s a tad small for an NFL end but could fit well in the Canadian game. James knows that better than anyone. “He’s trash,” he joked, with Williams within earshot. “No, he played a lot of games hurt and he still dominated. I know a kid who got drafted by Pittsburgh in the fourth round, I was working out with him before the draft, and he said Keron’s the best d-end he’s ever played against. He said he’s way underrated. I’ve seen him dominate games by himself.
“Against New Hampshire in our junior year — he had three (two) sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He was killing their tackle. It was bad. It was like he was playing a high-school kid. He was bull-rush- ing, going past him, everything.”
At five foot 10, 195 pounds, James is small for a linebacker, but he has a knack for making plays. Stamps general manager Jim Barker was told by the Ravens’ director of pro personnel that James was their top-ranked college player, in terms of sheer productivity.
Asked to pick his favourite James performance, Williams struggled.
“There’s just so many to chose from,” said the lineman. “I’d have to say the same game because he had three picks and he took one to the crib. It was called back, but I still count it because it wasn’t a penalty”
Both players are signed through the 2007 season with a club option for ’08.
Calgary defensive lineman Keron Williams, left, and defensive back Shannon James are teammates one more time.