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Chis Williamson pick gets Darius Slayton's approval


Chris Williamson hasn't forgotten the white stretched-out Hummer limousines that Darius Slayton and his team arrived in when they squared off in the Gwinnett Football League championship game. Slayton's team was obviously confident, having mercy ruled Williamson's squad, 34-0, in the regular season.

Nine-year-olds will be nine-year-olds.

In the rematch for the title of one of the top youth football leagues in Georgia, Williamson's side got revenge and shut out Slayton's by a score of 14-0.

"I mean, I know it had to be kind of embarrassing pulling up in a limousine and losing," Williamson said on a video chat less than a week after the Giants drafted the Minnesota cornerback in the seventh round. "But you know, it's something I still hold over Darius to this day."

Williamson added, "I don't even think they rode the limos home."

The longtime rivals-turned-friends have reunited on the Giants, albeit remotely for now. Slayton, the 171st pick last year, proved to be a Day 3 diamond in the rough as he tied Tennessee's A.J. Brown for the most touchdown catches by a rookie last season. Williamson, the 247th of 255 possible picks in 2020, hopes to get the "steal" label, too.

Williamson grew up playing offense. He didn't switch to defense until his senior year at Gainesville High School in Georgia. He did so at the behest of former Pro Bowl safety Buchanan, who spent seven of his 12 NFL seasons with the Atlanta Falcons.

Williamson met him in the summer of eighth grade when he was training with his brother, Kendall, who now plays for Stanford. Williamson's parents, Bethel and Ursula, saw Ray Buchanan with his son, Ray Jr., and asked if he would be willing to work with their sons.

Williamson reminded Buchanan of himself.

"I was always playing receiver and I was a six-foot receiver," Williamson recalled. "You can find a lot of six-foot receivers, but I was kind of a bigger defensive back. The one nugget that Ray always put in my head was you're an average size receiver, but you're a big defensive back that can move. There's not too many guys who are big and can move that get paid at the next level. He was always throwing that nugget in my head. My senior year of high school was the first year I had played defensive back. I had always been training with him for defensive back, but I never truly played it in a high school game. I definitely give the credit for me making that move to Ray Bucannon."

The switch led him to the University of Florida, where he played in nine games and made one start in the Gators' season opener as a sophomore in 2016. Williamson contemplated transferring and one of his first calls was to his mentor again.

"He has always been a person that has my best interest at heart," Williamson said. "He always wanted what was best for me. He was a huge asset to have during that time period. The transition from wide receiver to defensive back was something he helped me with, as well. He's had a huge role in my corner. He's more so like a second father to me as well. Just having somebody like that who's already played in the NFL is a huge blessing. I can still train with him, there's a lot of things about the game he teaches me as well. Things I may not see. I have the opportunity to send him clips of film from practice and he'll break that down for me and stuff that I did wrong. It's a true blessing to have somebody like that in my corner."

Williamson transferred to Minnesota, and after sitting out the 2017 season, he played in 24 games for the Gophers, including nine as a starter last season. He recorded 57 tackles (37 solo), including four for loss and 2.5 sacks, broke up three passes and intercepted one pass that he returned 43 yards for a touchdown.

That was enough to grab the attention of Giants general manager Dave Gettleman and coach Joe Judge, who said Williamson will play some combination of corner and safety, known as the "star" position.

"He'll bring some position flexibility in the defensive backfield," Judge said. "He's got a good size and speed combination. We look for him to compete at multiple positions this year."

Darius Slayton will be waiting.


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