Chargers WR builds off 'crazy moment'
Tyrell Williams gave father gift of pride during difficult time
By Michael Gehlken | 1:15 p.m. June 27, 2016
Maxine Williams lost her hearing ability in high school, going to bed one night with it and awaking the next morning without. Doctors never did discover the cause, her son says, but maybe just maybe, somehow in her state, she could hear from her Oakland hospital room, hear from her death bed, the screams that day in Denver.
They belonged to her son, Ray, in reaction to her grandson, Tyrell.
Maybe she can hear them now.
Chargers wide receiver Tyrell Williams matured this spring, adding more polish to his route-running as maybe the most improved player on the Chargers offense. His performance in the Jan. 3 season finale served as a springboard to the offseason. The game came at an emotional time for his family.
Maxine had been hospitalized for a few weeks.
Tyrell visited her Dec. 23 when the Chargers were in Oakland for a Thursday Night Football game against the Raiders. There was hope she might progress, but complications from a seizure disorder arose.
On Jan. 3, Ray sat about four rows from the end zone, surrounded by Broncos fans at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Before the game, he spoke with bleary eyes to Tyrell, passing along news he received that morning from California.
Maxine’s condition now was grave. She could go at any time. Ray remained in Denver because he couldn’t find a flight back to the Bay Area.
“It was a big day, a sad day, a special day,” Tyrell said. “It was special to do that for my dad, especially right after that. It was crazy.”
Before Jan. 3, Tyrell hadn’t played much as a rookie.
He arrived in May of 2015, signing as an undrafted free agent from Western Oregon. His potential was clear from the get-go, making the type of plays in practice that caught quarterback Philip Rivers’ attention. Tyrell also showed a humble, hard-working demeanor that endears rookies to veterans.
Malcom Floyd was a veteran wide receiver who planned to retire after the season.
Tyrell, similarly built at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, watched him closely.
“You saw flashes of, ‘This guy could be something,’” Rivers said. “You just saw those flashes. Not to compare their exact styles or anything, but he reminded me of Malcom when Malcom and I came here together (in 2004) of, ‘Gosh, was that Tyrell again?’ Every once in a while, throughout camp, ‘There he is again. Gosh, he played at a small school, but if he can come along, he’s got a chance.’”
Tyrell made the Chargers’ 53-man roster in September.
He saw time on special teams in their season opener, running down kicks in coverage. But due to injuries elsewhere and despite his acumen, he spent the bulk of the year on the practice squad.
Tyrell played 30 offensive snaps all season.
Twenty-four unexpectedly came in Denver after Floyd exited with a concussion. Ray watched the game, his attention on the field fading in and out. He thought about how his dad passed away in 2010 and now his mother likely wasn’t far behind — indeed, she died the next day. Maxine was 72.
And then his thoughts returned to wondering where Floyd went and hey, there’s Tyrell on the field.
In the fourth quarter, with the Chargers trailing the eventual Super Bowl champions 17-13, Tyrell lined up to the right of San Diego’s formation, cornerback Aqib Talib about 8 yards off him.
Ray, a former college cornerback, saw what Rivers and Tyrell saw.
“I look at the coverage and say, ‘There is no one in the middle of the field,’” Ray said. “’If he can make any sort of move like he’s going out and Talib opens toward the sideline and Tyrell breaks back in, there’s nobody else there.”
That’s largely how the play went.
Tight end John Phillips ran an out route, and all three Broncos defensive backs on that side of the field followed him toward the flat. That left Tyrell all alone, as he made a narrow move inside and streaked downfield. Rivers was all over it, and Tyrell caught his first career NFL pass for an 80-yard touchdown.
The end zone where Tyrell scored was the end zone by which his father sat.
“Tyrell breaks back inside, Philip chucks it and inside, I’m just going bananas,” Ray said. “He catches it, and I make the loudest yell. You probably could hear me with all those people. I am absolutely losing my mind. And the people around me have no idea because I told one guy who was there, ‘Yeah, No. 16 is my son.’ At that time, he was just on special teams, so he didn’t pay it too much attention.
“When I was going crazy, he started telling the people around the area. And all the sudden, (the Broncos fans are) yelling for me and clapping and high-fiving me. … I yell out his name, and Tyrell turned, and he showed me the ball. … I had tears in my eyes. It was a crazy moment.”
Tyrell hasn’t looked back.
He exudes more confidence with a year under his belt and first catch behind him. As a route-runner, he moves better in and out his breaks, helping him earn consistent reps with the first- and second-team offense this spring. No one at Chargers Park, least of Tyrell, will say he’s close to a finished product, but the potential is clear.
“You can see what he can do,” coach Mike McCoy said.
And when his dad is around, you can hear it.
If GT was there he would have gotten Hot Dogs.
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