When the Chargers lost Keenan Allen for the year from a knee injury in the first game of the season, many figured the front office would sign a seasoned veteran to fill the obvious void in the receiving corps. Although there were some well-known veterans available — namely James Jones who had been with the bolts during training camp — the team believes it already has their man in house.
Enter second-year receiver Tyrell Williams. One of only four undrafted rookies to make the active roster out of training camp last year, the 6-foot-4-inch, 205-pound Williams made quite the impression by converting his first NFL reception into an 80-yard touchdown in the season finale against the Broncos last season. What made this catch extra special was it came against one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL — All Pro Aqib Talib.
MP reporter Art Garcia Jr. caught up with Williams to ask him a few questions as the team prepared for the Indianapolis Colts.
Art Garcia Jr.: You look very comfortable with your role in the offense in the first two games, how are things going?
Tyrell Williams: Things are going well. I’m excited to get back out there on the field this Sunday and hopefully get in the end zone again — so I’m excited.
AG: Aside from the last game versus Denver last year, you played mostly on special teams. What were your thoughts coming into this season?
TW: I just wanted to make sure I put myself in the best opportunity to be on the field as much as possible. I’m just excited to hopefully get another win this weekend and keep things rolling.
AG: Having made the team as an undrafted free agent last year, did you train any differently for this season?
TW: Oh yeah. This offseason I made sure to focus on things I wasn’t as good at last season, like getting out of my breaks and running crisper routes. So that was kind of my main focus this offseason.
AG: Were you familiar with the Chargers at all before signing with them?
TW: No, I talked to them a little bit during my junior pro day, and during my senior year I talked to them little bit — but that’s about it.
AG: What made you sign with the Chargers?
TW: I came here for a visit during the draft visits and stuff and I really liked it, liked the coaches and stuff, so it kind of worked out that way (signing with the Chargers).
AG: Did your agent kind of point you here knowing the Chargers have a history of undrafted free agents making the team?
TW: No, that wasn’t really one of the thoughts, but later on in the season we talked about that but that was about it.
AG: Do you remember what your initial goals were coming in as an undrafted rookie?
TW: My first year I just wanted to make the team — do whatever it takes to make that final 53-man roster and go from there.
AG: So tell me your thoughts when you first learned that you made the team?
TW: Honestly, it was indescribable. It was awesome. I made sure I called my family and it’s just hard to go back and describe that feeling.
AG: Was it really nerve-racking waiting to get that call?
TW: Definitely nervous. I just came in and tried to go about what I had normally done, but I was definitely nervous.
AG: Who let you know that you had made the team?
TW: I was here and had just got out of the hot tub when Fred (Graves / wide receiver coach) called and said, “I just want to let you know that you’ll be on the 53,” and from there I don’t even know if I heard him say anything else because I was so excited.
AG: What was it like growing up with both of your parents working in corrections — what it pretty strict?
TW: Definitely, but my dad was a coach too when I was growing up so I wouldn’t say it was real strict, but we were disciplined with that type of stuff. I think that instilling discipline really helped me dealing with stuff and in the NFL (as well).
AG: So you and your older brother not only competed in sports as kids but also in college, correct?
TW: He was two years older and he was a running back and a corner in high school, but then when we went to college he played cornerback and I was a receiver so for three years we went at it.
AG: So who got the best of whom?
TW: Oh I think I definitely got the best of him (said laughingly).
AG: What was his reaction when you told him you made the Chargers roster?
TW: It was awesome — it was awesome. I definitely wanted to share it with him since we played football together for our whole lives growing up.
AG: Who was your biggest influence as a player?
TW: Probably my brother and my dad — my dad was coaching me my whole life when I ran track and played basketball he was my coach. And my brother, I always looked up to him because he was one of the best high school running backs, so I was always trying to be as good as him or better.
AG: As a receiver do you compare yourself to or try pattern yourself after anybody you like as a player?
TW: I don’t know if I try to compare myself to anyone but I watch a lot of film on Randy Moss and try to see how he, as a taller and longer guy, is in and out of breaks and stuff. So I try to watch a lot of tape on him.
AG: I asked Travis Benjamin how close he was with Philip Rivers in developing that all-important, non-verbal communication between a receiver and quarterback. How close are you with Philip where you can look at each other and know what you’re thinking by just a simple nod or blink of an eye?
TW: It’s getting better where we can kind of look and see a (certain) coverage where I’ll just kind of know where to be and he knows where to expect me to be. It’s still early, and we still have some mistakes and miscommunication but it’s definitely getting better every day.
The Endzone: When asked what is the best advice he’s received Williams replied, “Just be patient. All the guys last year when I went undrafted and was trying to get on the field said to ‘be patient and your time will come.’ And at the end of the year it was there — luckily I had been patient and been concentrating on the playbook and was able to contribute.”
Williams was one of four undrafted rookies to earn a spot on the active roster out of training camp and is the first player from Western Oregon to play for the Chargers. Williams’ 80-yard touchdown pass tied for the 11th-longest catch in franchise history, and it was the longest first catch by a player in franchise history.