Maxx Williams comes from a long line of NFL stock.
His father played in the NFL. His grandfather played in the NFL. And now, the former Minnesota standout, is getting his own chance in the big leagues. Although he’s been called over-confident, Williams boast an undeniable set of skills that already have him competing for a start in the Baltimore Ravens starting lineup.
Here’s what you need to know about the Gopher, his penchant for diving sideline catches and his desire to just get better:
1. Williams Played Two Seasons of College Football at Minnesota
After redshirting his freshman season, Williams played in 13 games in 2013 and led the team in receptions (25) and receiving touchdowns (5). He shared Outstanding Offensive Freshman of the Year honors with Donovahn Jones and was named to Athlon’s Freshman All-America Third Team.
It only got better in his second season as Williams made certain there was no sophomore slump. He started 10 of 12 games in 2014 and immediately made an impact. He led Minnesota in receptions (36), yards (569), receiving touchdowns (8) and was fourth in yards-per-reception (15.8). As if that weren’t enough, his 569 receiving yards and eight touchdowns were a single-season record for a Gophers tight end the most-ever for a sophomore in program history.
Williams declared for the NFL draft after his sophomore season, forgoing his final two years of eligibility.
2. He Was a Finalist for the John Mackey Award
Considered one of the most talented college tight ends in the country last year, Williams’ secured his status at the top of the position pack when he was named a finalist for the John Mackey Award, presented annually to the best tight end in the country.
The other finalists were Miami senior Clive Walford and Florida State senior Nick O’Leary, who went on to win the honor.
Although he didn’t win the award, Williams had some of the most impressive stats of the finalist trio, accounting for the largest percentage of his team’s receiving yardage and receiving touchdowns.
3. Both His Father & Grandfather Played in the NFL
Williams did not just stumble into his gridiron talent. In fact, he comes from a long line of football and athletic standouts. His father, Brian, was a starter on the Minnesota offensive line before playing center for the New York Giants from 1989 to 1999. His grandfather, Bob, was a starting quarterback at Notre Dame in the 1950’s and also had a stint in the NFL.
The Minnesota native joined his family’s legacy this year when he was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
But it isn’t only the Williams men who have a streak of athletic talent. Williams’ mother, Rochele, was a four-year volleyball letter-winner at Minnesota and her father and brother also played football for the Gophers. In other words, this is a serious family affair.
4. Mel Kiper Jr. Projected Him as an NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Candidate
Talk about some preseason expectations. ESPN football and draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.lauded the Baltimore Ravens for the team’s draft picks this year and singled out one player in particular in his praise; Maxx Williams.
Kiper not only predicted that the Minnesota tight end would thrive in Mac Trestman’s brand-new offense but that he would find his way to the top of the NFL pile, adding:
I think Maxx Williams could be NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He could be everything that Dennis Pitta was when he was healthy.
Williams had impressed NFL analysts and scouts early on in the draft process with impressive performances at both his pro day and combine.
5. Williams is Competing for a Spot in the Starting Lineup
The expectations for Williams are high this season but no one expects more of the rookie tight end than he does. That’s why he’s already fighting for a start in the Ravens starting lineup. To do anything else simply would not make sense.
He explained his training camp approach to the Baltimore Sun:
For me, it’s just going out here and just trying to improve every day knowing that I do have to make that next step. So, it is taking it one step at a time, learning the playbook as much as I can, learning how to watch film. I’m trying to prove to them that they did draft me for a good reason and coming out here and proving; trying to be with everyone, even the guys who have been in the league for what, 10 or 15 years?
Williams does not have exactly dominant speed, running the 40-yard dash in 4.78 seconds, but he’s got quick feet along the sideline and a willingness to use his entire body to haul in a catch, particularly in the end zone. The former Minnesota standout is also looking to prove that Baltimore didn’t make a mistake in trading up for him or for signing him to a $4.05 million contract.