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Indianapolis Colts bring in former Washington State RB James Williams as free agent

WSU running back James Williams runs drills during WSU's Pro Day on Wednesday, April 3, 2019, in Pullman, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Former Washington State running back James Williams will get another crack at making a 52-man NFL roster this fall.

The Indianapolis Colts signed Williams to a free agent contract Tuesday after waiving defensive end Dadi Nicolas to clear a roster spot for the ex-Cougar standout.

Williams, who left WSU one year early to pursue a lifelong dream of playing professional football, has been an free agent since he was cut by the Kansas City Chiefs in the middle of June after the club made the running back a high priority free agency pickup when he wasn’t selected in the 2019 NFL Draft.

In a recent Bleacher Report article featuring Williams entitled “Life in NFL Limbo,” the running back admitted to having struggles learning Kansas City’s playbook.

“I panicked every time they put me in because I don’t like going in and not knowing,” Williams said in the article. “You thought you knew football, but I came in here like, Oh, God. I don’t know anything.”

The story also mentions Williams’ learning disability, something he was hesitant to bring up to the Chiefs coaching staff.

“I don’t try to bring it up to my OC. I’m not gonna say that because I don’t want to make no excuses. I want to try to fight through it,” Williams was quoted as saying. “I know I will be able to do it.”

Williams will get a fresh start in Indianpolis, where he’ll have two preseason showcases to prove he belongs on the Colts’ 53-man roster. Indy hosts Chicago on Saturday at 4 p.m., then finishes the preseason at Cincinnati on Aug. 29 at 4 p.m.

The Colts currently list eight running backs on their roster, led by Marlon Mack, a 900-yard rusher in 2018, Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines, who each went over 300 yards last season. The team’s other backs are rookie Aca’cedric Ware out of USC, third-year player Charcandrick West, fourth-year player Jonathan Williams and rookie Marquis Young.

Williams was essential to WSU’s ground game in his three years with the Cougars, but his ability to catch out of the backfield could be what allows him to stick on an NFL roster as a rookie. He set WSU’s single-season record for receptions by a running back twice, catching 71 passes in 2017 and 83 in 2018. Williams finished his career with 202 catches for 1,437 yards and eight receiving touchdowns.