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Former Sierra College football stars sign with AFC West teams

Special to the Journal
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Although the 2013 NFL season is still a few months away, the AFC West has a decided Cardinal and White tint as former Sierra College stars Courtney Gardner and Deonte Williams signed undrafted free agent contracts with the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders, respectively.

Both Gardner, who was a Wolverine wide receiver from 2010-2011, and Williams, who played for Sierra in 2009 and Cal Poly the last two years, were signed by the AFC division rivals immediately following last weekend’s NFL draft. Draft experts had projected Gardner going in the third or fourth round, while Williams was expected to be a late-round pick.

Gardner was one of the nation’s top junior college receivers in 2011 and was courted by LSU, Arkansas and Oklahoma. He was named a 2011 All-American and was an All-Valley Conference and All-Northern California selection. He led the Valley with 61 receptions for 1,099 yards and 13 touchdowns. His 109.9 yards per game, 18 yards per catch, 6.1 receptions per game, 8.6 points per game and 14 overall TDs also paced the Valley.

After sitting out in 2012, Gardner decided to forego his final two years of college eligibility and enter the draft. He has been training in Los Angeles with Nevada defensive back, Duke Williams, who was selected in the draft’s fourth round by the Buffalo Bills.

As a Wolverine in 2009, Deonte Williams led the Valley Conference in rushing with 998 yards and 13 scores on 233 carries. After earning All-Valley first team honors, Williams accepted a scholarship to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Williams rushed for 1,547 yards and 12 TDs on 231 carries for the Mustangs in 2012, leading the Big Sky Conference and becoming the 15th Cal Poly back to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season.

Williams was named to the All-Big Sky first team and earned second-team All-America honors from the Associated Press, The Sports Network, and Beyond College Sports.