After going 6-26 over the last two seasons, the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks made several moves during the off-season to improve in every aspect possible. One of the more popular moves of the off-season was the signing of running back William Powell. Powell had played in Ottawa previously, having won the Grey Cup with the Redblacks in 2016 and having success, running for over 1,000 yards on two different occasions in the capital, and acquiring him brought a lot of excitement towards the Redblacks fan base. With a very minimal run game established in 2021, Powell was set to make a big change in the Redblacks offence, but then after suffering an achillies injury during training camp some worried if the run game would be in danger to start the season. Fortunately for the Redblacks though, general manager Shawn Burke and company prepared for the worst. Alongside the signing of William Powell, the Redblacks also signed Silver Springs, Maryland native Devonte Williams who went on to start the first two games of the 2022 CFL season in place of Powell.
Over those two games Williams filled in perfectly, running for 118 yards on 21 carries and even catching 4 passes for additional yardage. That worry that the run game would be dead without Powell in the lineup quickly went away in Ottawa, and the main question now that Powell is back in the Redblacks offence is how can head coach Paul LaPolice and the Redblacks get both Powell and Williams incorporated into the offence. The second game that Williams played for the Redblacks against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at home really showed flashes of how special he could be at this level, running for 85 yards on just 12 carries, averaging over 7 yards a carry it became evident that anything is possible with the ball in his hands, and for Devonte Williams it has always been like that.
Williams earned the nickname, “The Matrix” in little league football and he has lived up to the name in each and every level of football, from little league through the pros with the Ottawa Redblacks.
Growing up in Silver Springs, Maryland, Devonte “The Matrix” Williams was put into football very early. His father, Isaac Williams played with the University of Pittsburgh, both his uncles, Shawn Springs and Omar Evans played professionally in the NFL and CFL and even his grandfather Ron Springs made a name for himself in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys. With football running in his family like it does, Devonte starred on the football field very early in little league football and that success only carried onto high school.
In high school, at The Bullis School in Potomac, Maryland, at the same school of the late NFL quarterback Dwayne Haskins, Devonte Williams made a big name for himself. He was a 3 star recruit with over 20 offers to play division one football in university and was named the 19th ranked player in the state of Maryland and the 62nd ranked running back in the nation.
With dreams of playing in the BIG 10, Williams committed to his only BIG 10 offer from Indiana University where he would actually begin his career as a cornerback. The Hoosiers at the time had running back Jordan Howard who was set to have a big season in 2015 and there wasn’t much room for Williams in the offence, so without much experience on the defensive side of the ball, Williams moved to cornerback as a freshman at Indiana. As a true freshman, he started the first three games at cornerback. Indiana went 2-1 in the three game span and Williams found himself on special teams as a returner, having returned 10 kicks for 204 yards. Unfortunately, on one of those 10 kickoff returns Williams also suffered a season ending injury which forced him to medically redshirt from the 2015 NCAA season.
For Williams though, redshirting ended up being okay for him, getting back on the offensive side of the ball as a redshirt freshman in 2016 where he would go on to gain a total 1,001 all-purpose yards, rushing, receiving and returning. Devonte Williams was then named a BIG 10 All-Freshman and had big expectations going into his sophomore season in 2017.
In 2017 Williams was named to the Paul Hornung watch list, being among some of the most versatile college football players at the division one level. He went on to have 761 all-purpose yards as a sophomore, and with a decline in his involvement with the Hoosiers he made the move to Southeastern Louisiana University where he excelled at each and every aspect of the game, from the run game to the pass game to the return game.
With the Southeastern Louisiana Lions, Williams, over two years was a feature back and found himself making plays, plays so big he got the worlds attention on ESPN, Sportscenter Top 10 with a big punt return touchdown against Nicholls State on senior night, a game where he had three touchdowns, and having made plays like that, Devonte Williams was a name known across NFL front offices ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft. The future looked bright for Williams coming out of his senior season in 2019.
That 2019 NCAA Football season though, was the last normal football season that Williams would play.
During that off-season, just before his pro day at Southeastern Louisiana, the COVID-19 Pandemic hit the world and shut down the sports world, it shut down and cancelled all of the events that were set to help Williams get to where he wanted to be. Williams went from having NFL dreams and having the NFL in reach to being unemployed within just months, but his NFL dreams never died.
He went on to showcase his talents in front of dozens of professional scouts in San Diego, California at HUB Football workouts to open up the door for some professional opportunities. Within a week after one of the workouts, Williams would receive calls from both the New England Patriots and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
He went unsigned by the Patriots, and was left to sign with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the CFL where he would spend the majority 2021 season on their practice roster.
Williams never got a chance to play with the Blue Bombers in a game, but recently played against them with the Redblacks and recently showed sparks of what is possible with the unfinished story of Devonte “The Matrix” Williams.