The only thing brighter than the sun outside Center City in Schenectady on Tuesday was the smile on Antwun Williams’ face inside the building.
Freshly returned from a weekend minicamp with the New York Jets, the Albany Conquest’s most productive receiver was back with the arenafootball2 team for a short week of practice heading into a game tonight at 7 at Daytona Beach, Fla.
He brought back some Jets gear — gloves, cleats, hats, T-shirts — to commemorate his short stint there, but mostly he’ll keep the memory of being looked at by an NFL coaching staff.
“It was a wonderful experience, a dream come true,” he said. “What more can you ask for? It’s the NFL. There was a lot of things thrown at me, as far as plays and getting to know the coaching staff, but I had to make the adjustment. I’d love to do it again, and hopefully, I’ll have the opportunity to do that.”
Williams was told by the Jets that he’s on the short list to be called back during summer training camp, but it would likely take a spate of injuries at his position for that to happen.
In the meantime, he should re-invigorate an Albany offense that has suffered some lapses in recent games.
The Conquest (3-2) are coming off a 61-49 loss at home to Tennessee Valley, and even during their three-game winning streak, they were unable to keep the offense running efficiently for the entire game.
“The two games prior to last week, we didn’t play a complete game, but we were still able to win,” quarterback Dan Cole said. “This past weekend, we didn’t play a complete game in the second half. I don’t know if there’s an exact
reason, I just know that we haven’t gotten the job done. There’s a lack of execution for four quarters.”
“We let people back in,” head coach Jeff Hoffman said. “We were up by 27 against Manchester, and, yeah, I know they scored with eight seconds left to make it a 10-point game, but we didn’t finish them off. Against Mahoning Valley, we were up by 13 and didn’t put them away. In arena football, you can’t let people hang around. Although we won those games, and I’ll take those wins, we need to do a better job of finishing people off. I’ve been up by 19 with three minutes left and lost the game.”
This is Williams’ third season with the Conquest, so he should be able to fold himself back into the flow of the offense without any difficulty.
Just as Williams is returning, the Conquest will be without Schenectady High School and UAlbany graduate Jacob Hobbs, a lineman who has been invited to the New York Giants minicamp this weekend.
“I think he has a good opportunity,” Hoffman said. “He’s a good football player, he blocks well and when he’s in the right mindframe, he can make a lot of things happen, so hopefully, he gets this opportunity and makes the most of it.”
The Conquest are also anticipating the return of receiver Jared Jones, who earned af2 offensive player of the week honors with 325 all-purpose yards in Albany’s second game.
He has been hurt, but is eligible to rejoin the lineup for next week’s game against division-leading Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
“Yeah, he’s itching to get back in,” Cole said. “I don’t know if anything’s definite now, but he started to run a little bit yesterday [Monday], so hopefully, with this week and next week, he can get back and be ready to go.”
Even without Jones, Cole has a prime target in the 6-foot-2 Williams, who is known for his good hands, crisp route-running and willingness to put his body on the line to get to any ball in his vicinity.
“He has the intangibles that some people don’t,” Cole said. “He has good speed, he’s tall, he has great hands. He catches anything, and one thing about him is he’ll sell out his body for any ball. I think that separates him from a lot of other receivers.
“I learned that last year, when I played the final game as a starter. I made a couple throws that I didn’t think were going to get there, and Antwun got them, so he gives you a lot more comfort. You don’t have to be on point on every throw.”
“They [Jets] told me I run great routes and catch the ball very well,” Williams said. “Overall, I think I did pretty good. I went down there with the mindframe of doing what I normally do.
“Who wouldn’t want to be in the NFL, but I’m happy I’m back, I’m happy I’m not doing nothing, I’m happy that I’m not sitting at home.”
“He’s another guy who thoroughly knows the offense,” Hoffman said. “With him, I can make adjustments on the fly, and you can just explain it to him. He knows how the offense runs, he’s been in the system for three years. It’ll allow me, when I get in a pinch, to go back to do some things that we weren’t able to do this past week to get the offense going.”
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