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Originally published May 30, 2011 at 8:17 PM | Page modified May 30, 2011 at 8:17 PM

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Lockout puts NFL dreams on hold for undrafted Victor Aiyewa and Nate Williams

Consider their wait in uncertainty one of the unintended consequences of the NFL lockout. Current NFL players and those recently drafted know that eventually, when the saber rattling is done, they will have a home.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Consider their wait in uncertainty one of the unintended consequences of the NFL lockout.

Current NFL players and those recently drafted know that eventually, when the saber rattling is done, they will have a home.

And NFL free agents, at least the big-name ones, can rest assured there will be a job for them somewhere.

But undrafted rookie free agents, such as former Washington players Victor Aiyewa and Nate Williams, are forced to sit out the lockout in the unknown, preparing for an opportunity they can only hope is waiting for them when the lockout lifts.

The lockout prevented them from signing after they went unselected in the NFL draft.

So while Huskies teammates Jake Locker and Mason Foster — each taken in the draft in April — at least know there's a spot on a roster with their name on it when the lockout ends, Aiyewa and Williams have no idea what their future holds.

"It's kind of uncharted waters," said Cameron Foster, the agent for Williams. "Normally, most free agents are snapped up within an hour or so. It's difficult because he should be on someone's list right now, training at their facility. But for these guys, my advice is just to stay in shape because the call could come tomorrow, it could come four months from now. You've got to stay in shape so when that day comes, you can go into a camp and look good."

Advice the two former Huskies are following.

Aiyewa says he works out three hours a day, five or six days a week. He's also taking one class at UW to finish a sociology degree. Like Williams, he is scheduled to participate in June graduation ceremonies.

"It's pretty tough," Aiyewa said. "It's kind of hard to understand and anticipate when it's going to end. But I think for me, the most important part is to stay in shape.

"One of the bright sides of it is that a lot of guys kind of take it as a vacation, as a break. And for me, I'm kind of taking this moment to try to get an edge on players so I'll have an edge going into camp."

Still, each has had to try to stay resolute through the unknown of the lockout while also overcoming the disappointment of not having been drafted in the first place.

While draft analysts considered both players as late-round picks at best, each harbored hopes of being taken.

Aiyewa led the Pac-10 in tackles for a loss last season with 21, fourth-best in UW history, capping his season with a forced fumble early in the Holiday Bowl that helped spur the win over Nebraska.

But 2010 was Aiyewa's first season at linebacker after playing safety the previous three years, and he thinks that may not have helped his draft status.

"I think maybe the fact that I changed positions (was a factor), so there were a lot of unknowns about if I could gain any more weight and if I could play linebacker at the next level," he said. "I don't know if they wanted to take that risk."

Aiyewa, listed at 219 pounds last year at UW, says he's now up to 230 and intends to prove that he is NFL caliber.

"It's not a good feeling (not to be drafted)," he said. "Some guys have to be the guys that go through that experience and I was just one of those guys. The good thing is that not being selected and being overlooked kind of creates a different kind of hunger to prove yourself on the next level. Kind of immediately after the draft your mentality changes that I'm definitely going to go into the NFL and show them who I am, prove that you are the player that they overlooked this year."

Williams was a three-year starter at UW, a team captain a year ago and the third-leading tackler in the Pac-10.

But his draft stock took a hit when he ran a 4.71 40 at the NFL combine.

"Unfortunately, NFL teams are very stuck on speed," said Foster. "... He just didn't run that fast. But the thing with Nate is that he's just a great ball hawk and has great vision and instinct. That's what's going to take him to the next level."

Each talked to enough teams ahead of the draft to feel confident that there will be calls once the lockout ends.

For now, though, all they can do is wait.

"It would sure be a lot less stressful on him (Williams) if he had a team right now," Foster said. "But he realizes that there is interest and it's just a matter of time."

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

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