ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – Chiefs wide receiver Fred Williams didn’t need to search far to locate motivation during the offseason.
Williams had daily workouts chasing after his three daughters – Aniya and Amea, both 8 years old, and Aury, who is 4 – and he drew inspiration from them while training in his hometown of Milwaukee.
“The days I just want to relax – I take them to go work out with me – they push me to do extra reps,” Williams said with a smile. “And it’s just funny to hear my kids cheer me on when I’m tired, they know that I’m tired, ‘Come on, dad. You can do it.’”
The sound of his daughters’ voices keep Williams focused as he competes in a training camp for a final roster spot, a path full of obstacles considering the Chiefs are loaded with 14 wide receivers.
But Williams isn’t accustomed to the easy road, evidenced by his professional playing career after leaving St. Cloud State University in 2010.
Williams, who holds St. Cloud records in career receptions (264) and yards receiving yards (3,804), spent two seasons with the San Jose Sabercats in the Arena Football League (2012-13) before the Chiefs signed him to the practice squad on Dec. 18, 2013.
The 6-0, 190-pound Williams spent the 2014 season on the practice squad, and the last two years could offer him an edge in what is widely regarded as a complex offensive scheme.
“I’m getting more comfortable with the offense,” he said. “It’s a tough receiver group, so I try to learn as much as I can so I can be more useful going out there. I just want to continue to learn so I can be on the 53-man roster at the end of camp.”
Williams could be flying under the radar to a lot of observers, but he was difficult to ignore during organized team activities and mandatory minicamp leading to training camp.
He has speed and shown an ability to make tough catches, all of which has the coaching staff’s attention.
“Well, at least two seasons even going into this season, Fred has had a tremendous upside with us,” offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said. “He’s a big, strong, physical guy who can run and he’s got good hands.”
Williams’ experience in the Chiefs’ version of the West Coast offense can’t be overlooked when looking at the team’s young wide receiver corps.
The 27-year-old Williams learned the playbook and had an opportunity to receive mentorship from Jason Avant and Frankie Hammond Jr., who made the 53-man roster last season after spending the 2013 campaign on the practice squad.
Williams indicated the advice from Hammond, who is two years younger, has proven invaluable given Williams’ desires to follow in Hammond’s shoes.
“He relates to me a lot because of the position I’m in,” Williams said. “We are extremely close, so I constantly pick his brain how he transitioned from the practice squad to actually being on the active roster. He’s been an extreme help all through this entire process. He’s like a little big brother.”
Hammond has applied what he’s learned since arriving in Kansas City and hopes the momentum built since OTAs carries through training camp.
The Chiefs offensive coordinator also is looking forward to seeing Williams in action.
“He’s done a great job for us,” Pederson said. “He’s been in our system now, so he knows, and we expect big things from him going through training camp and these preseason games.”
Williams has run mostly with the second-team offense through four training camp practices, so taking advantage of every snap is at a premium.
The Chiefs are dealing with injuries to rookie Chris Conley (knee), Junior Hemingway (hip) and Armon Binns (ankle), and that could open the door to more opportunities.
But Williams understands he doesn’t have time to worry about where he stands on the depth chart.
“I can’t really worry about the competition right now,” Williams said. “Just worry about whenever my name is called, just make sure I make plays, be where I need to be to make plays and let the coaches make the decision from there.”
And if that isn’t enough to push him, Williams can always close his eyes and picture his three daughters lovingly offering encouragement.
“They motivate me,” he said. “That’s who I do it for.”