The day Zack Crockett called, that one impressed Deonte Williams.
The former Oakland Raiders fullback is a household name to Williams, an Oakland native who had one of the greatest rushing seasons in Cal Poly football history last season.
Now a scout for the Raiders, Crockett was one of several Oakland representatives to contact Williams and his agent leading up to this weekend’s NFL Draft.
“He was excited for me,” Williams said. “He said, ‘I hope you end up here with the Raiders.’ To hear Zack Crockett on the phone, I was like ‘Whoa, I know who you are.’ ”
Crockett, who led the 2002 Super Bowl runner-up Raiders with eight rushing touchdowns that season, said the organization liked Williams’ game film. They were impressed enough, apparently, to call Williams and start negotiating a free-agent contract before the seventh and final round of the draft ended Saturday.
It wasn’t long after the final selection the 5-foot-9, 210-pound Williams announced officially signing with Oakland on his Twitter account.
“From the free-agent standpoint,” Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh said, “when you get called immediately after the draft, that means there were probably a lot of teams that were interested in him.
“It shows there’s a sincere interest on their part. … Their interest should pique his interest. He should be excited that he’s one of the first guys they called.”
Mustangs linebacker Kennith Jackson also got a call from Oakland. Jackson said the Raiders invited him to the team’s rookie minicamp May 10, but he is still free to sign with another team before then.
Jackson also had a pre-draft workout with the San Francisco 49ers, where Walsh was impressed to see him run the 40-yard dash in 4.69 seconds.
“He’s got to show well,” Walsh said. “He walks on that field, he has to prove he should be there. I think he’s a good enough player to do it.”
As for Williams, he grew up a Raiders fan. He was born in Oakland and spent the first seven years of his life there before his family moved to Sacramento, where he first played tackle football at 8 years old for the South Sacramento Vikings.
But he sees more than just a chance to fulfill a dream by playing for the Raiders.
“Looking at the roster and the opportunity I have to come in and compete,” Williams said. “I can’t ask for anything more.”
The Raiders’ unquestioned starter is Darren McFadden, but it’s almost a given that Oakland will need some depth at the position. The fifth-year pro has been on the disabled list every year and has never played more than 13 games in a season.
Williams ranks second in Mustangs program history after rushing for 1,506 yards last season, falling 72 short of James Noble’s school record. He had a career-high 188 yards in a victory over UC Davis.
Williams added 12 rushing touchdowns and broke the Cal Poly record for consecutive 100-yard games with six in his only season as a starter.
Williams came to San Luis Obispo as a transfer from Sierra College. He began his college career at Northern Arizona before transferring to Sierra and briefly going to San Diego State. When things fell through academically with the Aztecs, Williams sat out a season and signed with Cal Poly.
He backed up West Virginia transfer Mark Rodgers as a junior before starring last season.
Williams’ competition for a backup role with Oakland includes several unproven players.
The Raiders signed former Jacksonville Jaguars running back Rashad Jennings earlier this month. Jennings had 283 yards and two touchdowns backing up Maurice Jones-Drew last season.
Oakland also drafted Central Florida’s Latavius Murray in the sixth round. Murray ran for 1,106 yards and 15 touchdowns this past season.
Because there has been talk of former Eastern Washington running back Taiwan Jones moving to cornerback, the only other runner on the roster is Jeremy Stewart, the Raiders’ fourth-leading rusher last season with 101 yards.
After the signing, Oakland representatives told Williams “we want to bring you here to compete,” he said, “and that’s what I do. I’m a competitor at heart.
“I’m going to come in there and just keep being Deonte. I know how to be a good teammate in any position I’m in. I’m just going to come in and compete.”