Fresno State wide receiver Keyan Williams knows all too well what kind of work you have to put in to be one of the best receivers in the game. His father is Keith Williams, a wide receivers coach at Tulane University and a former assistant coach with the Bulldogs from 2009-11. His father spent time with NFL and CFL teams, as well as time in the World League of American Football, so Williams is more than familiar with the type of work ethic it takes to make it to the top.
It’s because of this pedigree and a personal desire to be the best that Williams spent time in the offseason developing his skills. He worked with his dad to become a more dedicated and efficient route runner. Simulating routes and receivers, Williams spent the summer trying to train his body for the bigger hits and better defensive backs that the college game will bring.
“I’ve worked out with my dad a lot, getting the technique for receiver down and getting faster,” Williams said. “He’s listed ways of getting your muscles stronger so I can take the hits of a bigger guy. We did ladders, cone drills, and stuff of that nature. We simulated routes, certain routes that I’ll be doing. I was just trying to be as quick as I could in and out of cuts and in and out of breaks. If you do that then you’re going to have more space after you catch it, and I’m good at making somebody miss. Having more space between you and defensive back means it’s easier to juke the guy after the catch.”
Of course, when you have a pedigree like Williams has, people expect that to develop into leadership at some point. It makes sense; having grown up around the game, you should be able to – at least in theory – better help others understand their role on the field. The natural progression of things would eventually develop into a leadership role within the team. In other words, knowledge begets knowledge. Williams acknowledges this fact, but wants to make it clear that he doesn’t consider it an advantage in any way, shape, or form.
” Yeah, of course,” Williams said. “I think that’s why the coaches act like they like me so much. It’s because of the way I carry myself as far as knowing football stuff already and because my dad’s a coach already. It’s an advantage in some ways, but at the end of the day it really doesn’t matter. You can learn that stuff. But if somebody else is better than me, then… A quarterback might know everything in the world. Tom Brady’s backup probably knows the same stuff Tom Brady does, but he probably won’t be able to do as much as Tom Brady can. So it’s an advantage in some ways, but it’s really not.”
Williams would very much like to be a leader on the team, but there’s no entitlement in his game. That’s not a card he will play on the field. For Williams, everybody on this team is capable of being ‘that guy.’ It doesn’t’ matter if you were raised by coaches or wolves, the only thing that matters is what you’re able to show the coaching staff when your number is called. Williams is doing everything he can to make sure the coaches think the most of the skills he brings to the table.“My dad coaches receivers and my dad has sent a lot of guys to the NFL already,” Williams. “This past draft, he coached like five dudes that got drafted before the fifth round. I probably have the most experience as far as route running and the knowledge of the position. I feel like maybe I could be that leader of us, but it could be any of us. I mean, we still gotta get there.
“The guy my dad just coached at Tulane, Ryan Grant, he’s not the fastest guy. He’s not like quick or anything. He doesn’t really have yards after catch. He went to the Redskins and the head coach said in the little rookie meeting camp that he gets in and out of his cuts real fast. He’s like a ten year veteran playing. That’s kind of how I want Coach DeRuyter and any of the coaches to think of me when I get there. I’m kind of already polished. It’s just little things I have to work on. It’s like a fresh start. I’m getting there already knowing that type of stuff ‘cause I want to play right away.”
If the way Williams is talking reminds you of precision route runners like Steve Smith and Jerry Rice, it’s because that’s the type of receiver he would like to be. Williams knows he has speed, but speed doesn’t mean anything to him. As a matter of fact, it might surprise a few people how Williams looks at speed for a guy that has speed as an attribute. For Williams, maximizing your potential as a wide receiver comes down to your ability to get in and out of your breaks.
” You can be fast,” Williams said. “You can run a 4.4 every single day. What if the defensive back runs a 4.3 every single day? He’s faster than you. Then you can’t do anything with that. Randy Moss is going to be the first receiver in the Hall of Fame that ran a 4.3. Jerry Rice, what’d he run? He ran like a 4.6 or something. My dad coached James Jones and James lead the league in touchdowns like three years ago and he like 4.5-6 at the combine. All that stuff is good but if you don’t have the little things, like getting in and out of a break, then you’re not going to do anything with the ball after you catch it.”
No doubt that this type of talk is sure to excite. The future of the Red Wave is very bright and mentalities like the one Williams has are a big reason why.Stay tuned to BulldogPlaybook for more updates on the 2014 Fresno State season. Josh Webb is a Staff Writer for BulldogPlaybook. You can follow him on Twitter at @FightOnTwist.