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Williams sheds bust tag


He's the surprise of the season. Just when everybody was about to put the "bust" tag on Reggie Williams, he turned into a star.

Williams is the Jaguars' only wide receiver with a touchdown catch. He is tied with Torry Holt of St. Louis and Bernard Berrian of Chicago for the league lead in touchdown receptions with four each. Williams' 24 catches for 297 yards leads the Jaguars and is 17th-best in the NFL.

All right, he's not T.O., but do you think T.O. would like to have Williams' numbers?

"It's been a blessing. Prayer helps," Williams said of his fast start to the 2006 season. "I'm working hard. I'm letting my play take care of everything."

His performance this season is making a statement: He is not the Williams of his first two pro seasons, when he caught only one touchdown catch. Mostly, his performance this season is saying he is not a bust.

"It's all about faith and hard work. I never gave up. All the people who thought I was a bust, I laugh at you," Williams said.

There were a lot of people who were doubters. Williams was the ninth player selected in the 2004 draft and that kind of lofty draft status creates lofty expectations and Williams was slow to deliver. He's delivering now.

"My confidence in him never changed. He always knew I'd do the best thing to get him the football. There's something about it when somebody has confidence in you. Going into his third year, he's just a better receiver," Williams' quarterback, Byron Leftwich, said.

The two have finally established the pass-catch relationship that was expected of them from the beginning. Williams was drafted to become Leftwich's go-to guy. Three years later, he is.

Why is it happening now and not sooner? The main theory is the Jaguars are doing a better job of utilizing Williams' talent. Instead of throw long, run short, the Jaguars are throwing him short passes and letting Williams run long. In other words, Williams' run-after-the-catch ability may be his greatest asset.

"We're putting him in better situations. Everybody knows he's a violent football player. When he has the ball in his hands, he's tough to tackle," Leftwich said.

"That's been a help," Williams says of his new role, which has seen him catch a lot of short passes along the sideline. He turned one such reception into a 48-yard gain when he broke a tackle and raced down the sideline. "It's one of my strengths. The defensive backs are smaller. It's hard to tackle me."

At 6-4, 214, it was envisioned Williams would be a deep receiver, going up above shorter defensive backs to make big catches. This season, it's been just the opposite. Williams has turned short catches into long gains.

"You can throw a 10-yard pass and he'll make up the other 30 yards for you," Leftwich said.

Frankly speaking, his lack of success in his first two years in the league is probably the result of having been cast in a role that didn't fit his talent.

"Is that his fault?" Leftwich asked. "That's not his fault.

"Here's a guy everyone was saying things weren't going well for. I just knew the more opportunities we gave him, the more plays he'd make. At some point, success was going to come. It was going to find him," Leftwich added.

Now, Williams and his quarterback are each having their faith rewarded.

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