First Justin Hardy broke the NCAA record for career receptions. Two years later another East Carolina player, Zay Jones, surpassed him as the all-time leading receiver in FBS history while also setting a single-season mark with 158 catches. Now that both have have moved on the the NFL — Hardy with the Atlanta Falcons and Jones with the Buffalo Bills — Jimmy Williams has stepped forward to carry on the Pirates’ tradition of prolific pass catchers. The redshirt senior, who was awarded a medical hardship to play this season, was one of two state players to be named Tuesday on the preseason watch list for the Biletnikoff Award, honoring the nation’s top receiver. Duke’s T.J. Rahming was the other. Williams has played in 30 games for ECU with 19 starts. He finished with 45 catches for 818 yards and eight touchdowns a year ago while leading the team with an average of 18.2 yards per reception. He is the sixth Pirate to be named on the Biletnikoff watch list. Jones was a finalist for the award a year ago. Williams wasn’t the only ECU receiver gain recognition on a watch list Tuesday. His teammate Davon Grayson was among a group of six state players identified as preseason candidates for the Wuerffel Trophy, which is awarded to the FBS player that best combines exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement. Also named on the Wuerffel list are Appalachian State quarterback Taylor Lamb, Duke offensive lineman Gabe Bradner, North Carolina wide receiver Austin Proehl, NC State punter A.J. Cole III and Wake Forest defensive end Wendell Dunn. Nominations for the Wuerffel Trophy are made by the respective universities’ Sports Information departments and will close on October 13. A current list of nominees can be found at www.wuerffeltrophy.org beginning August 1. Semifinalists for the award will be announced on Nov. 2 and finalists will be announced on November 22. The formal announcement of the 2017 recipient will be made at the National Football Foundation’s press conference in New York City on December 5. The Biletnikoff Award winner will be revealed as part of a made-for television awards show two days later.
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