Ishaq Williams wasn’t sure he’d ever get another chance.
“At the beginning of the situation, I thought I might be done,” he said.
For good reason. Williams was suspended indefinitely by the Notre Dame football team before the 2014 season after an academic dishonesty investigation. He had to spend two years just watching and waiting. The Brooklyn product who came through Lincoln High in Coney Island hasn’t even played in a game since 2013, unless you count the Gridiron Showcase in Texas this past January. At one point his weight ballooned to almost 300 pounds due to inactivity and depression.
This weekend, though, he is getting that shot. He has trimmed back down to 253 pounds and is one of the tryouts at Giants rookie minicamp, hoping he can show that he still has some of the skills that at one time had him fast-tracked for the NFL.
“All that happened and I still have the opportunity to look forward and chance my dream,” he said. “That’s the way I look at it.”
The Giants have been known to offer such second chances. They selected Marvin Austin in the second round in 2011 draft after he missed an entire year at North Carolina due to a suspension. They also signed Will Hill after he spent a year out of football. Neither can be considered success stories, but they at least illustrate the Giants’ willingness to offer an opportunity for a return.
Williams also knows some people in the building who can vouch for him. Strength and conditioning coach Aaron Wellman worked with him at Notre Dame, as did Giants scout Tim McDonnell (who happens to be the nephew of team president John Mara).
That said, Williams still has a lot to prove and a lot of missed time to make up for.
“I mean, it’s not something that you can go out to the playground and play,” coach Ben McAdoo said. “You need it to be on a team and be around a team. It is tough to simulate the game.”
Williams will give it a try. He was flying around the field at Friday’s workout.
“I have to show something that the coaches can’t ignore,” he said. “I have to run every ball down, I can’t afford to make bad decisions and loaf.”
After his suspension from the team, he remained at Notre Dame and is currently three classes shy of receiving his degree. The school honored his scholarship. Williams said he was angry at first, but soon came to grips with his new reality.
“It’s hard to be angry when I’m still here,” he said of his chance with the Giants and the NFL.
A few days of minicamp may not be enough time to shake off two full seasons worth of rust. Williams, though, isn’t looking at how hard the challenge will be.
“It would be harder,” he said, “not to be here, not to have this opportunity.”