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Two-Time Walk-On To NFL Prospect: The Journey Of Bryce Williams

Imagine walking on at two different programs with no one wanting to give you a scholarship. Imagine turning that into an accolade filled career and a real shot at playing in the NFL. That is the story of ECU's Bryce Williams.

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

For many college athletes, the journey from high school to starring on the college level is a slow climb to the top. With other players, it may involved a change of scenery that allows their natural talent to shine.

East Carolina Pirates tight end Bryce Williams is not just any player.

The 6-6, 258 pound senior tight end from Winston-Salem, North Carolina took a college route that you rarely ever see while showing off his sheer will to become a success story.

Williams' story started after his high school career ended. He was an all-conference, NDHS Offensive MVP and Winston-Salem Journal All-Northwest (honorable mention) honoree as a senior and junior.  He caught 41 passes for 848 yards and seven touchdown in 2010 as a senior.

Months later, he was on the campus of the Marshall Thundering Herd as an invited walk-on, not as a scholarship player. After making the team, Williams stayed with Marshall for his freshman year, a year that he was redshirted. For the tight end, just making a team was not enough as he also wanted to make an impact.

With a big decision about his future to be made, Williams decided to come back home and play for the program that his parents and older brother attended: East Carolina. Being a walk-on at Marshall meant that he could transfer and immediately play for the Pirates.

So, for the second time in two seasons, the tight end joined an FBS program as a walk-on. He made the team, but was unable to earn any playing time as a redshirt freshman.

After spending a year in the program, Williams broke into the lineup in 2013 and surprised everyone. His sophomore season saw him find playing time as a bit of a fullback/tight end hybrid, earning play in all 13 games with one start. The sophomore made 20 catches for 220 yards and five touchdowns. At the end of the year, Williams was honored as the Pirates' most improved skill player-of-the-year.

2014 saw Williams continue his excellent play with a Second-Team All-American Athletic Conference selection. The junior made five starts in 13 games played for the record breaking ECU offense. While continuing to play both tight end and fullback. He caught 18 passes for 237 yards, including a catch in ten of the last 11 games of the season.

Making the full time move to tight end for the 2015 season, Williams became the first East Carolina player to be selected to the John Mackey Award Watch List. Williams was was also named to preseason All-American Athletic Conference squads by Phil Steele Magazine (first-team) and Athlon Sports (second-team).

So far, Williams has not disappointed with 53 catches for 549 yards and three touchdowns on the season. His numbers are among the best in the nation at that position. The ability of Williams to put up those numbers despite the extreme uncertainty at quarterback for the Pirates is downright amazing.

Not only has Williams been consistently good all season long, he put forth his best performances versus the toughest of competition. Versus the stingy defense of Florida, Williams caught nine passes for 83 yards. The Gators struggled all night to find a way to stop the 6-6 tight end. Playing against BYU, Williams' ability to dwarf defensive backs was evident with five catches for 87 yards.

Williams has impressed the college football world with his play, but he has also attracted attention from the NFL world. Williams was recently invited to play in the Senior Bowl, the biggest college football all-star game for potential NFL prospects.

The tight end is currently projecting as a mid-round draft pick and one of the top five tight ends available. From a two-time walk on to an NFL future, the story of Bryce Williams is something to behold.