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Big Step(fret) for Cowboys Receiver

October 22, 1997

IRVING, Texas (AP) _ Stepfret Williams slipped into a small space in the Jacksonville end zone, made a quick move, and turned to find a speeding football hitting him in the chest.

The touchdown pass last Sunday was significant for the Dallas Cowboys in a number of ways _ particularly because it was a rare score from inside the 20-yard line that gave them a 19-7 lead.

Since Jay Novacek’s back problems began two seasons ago, the Cowboys haven’t had a dependable third-down receiver. The Troy Aikman pass to Williams occurred on third and two.

It also was Williams’ first touchdown reception, a long time coming for the 6-foot, 170-pounder from Northeast Louisiana who was a heralded third-round draft choice in 1996.

``I just hope that touchdown gives Troy more confidence in me,″ said Williams, who has caught 15 passes for 170 yards this year.

It does.

``Step has done a nice job for us in the nickel package the last two or three weeks,″ Aikman said. ``He made a big third-down play. He is one of the quickest guys I’ve ever seen getting in and out of breaks. I know his size is of a concern but he’s still making plays.″

Aikman needs Williams to be a dependable third-down go-to guy.

The Aikman-to-Novacek hookup was a vital ingredient in the Cowboys’ winning three Super Bowls in the 1990s. The combination was virtually unstoppable.

Williams won’t be another Novacek, but Aikman likes the progress he sees.

``I’ve liked Step from day one,″ Aikman said. ``It’s just taken time for him to come around.″

Williams, who has run the 40 in 4.32, couldn’t beat out Kevin Williams last season and spent six weeks on the inactive list. He caught exactly one pass for 32 yards last year. He also was inactive for two playoff games.

``There was a lot to learn,″ Williams said. ``I’m starting to feel a little more comfortable.″

Offensive coordinator Ernie Zampese said Williams may be seeing the ball more often on third down.

``We had four conversions on third down against Washington and he had them all,″ Zampese said. ``He’s been doing the job.″

Coach Barry Switzer also has taken note.

``Step is playing well,″ Switzer said. ``He gives teams matchup problems. Step is not a big physical receiver. We still don’t know yet what he’ll do against big, physical cornerbacks.

``But he’s real quick and has soft hands. He might grow up and be something, you never know. Right now, he’s our third-down receiver and doing a good job.″

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