Ravens Pass Game Specialist Keith Williams has turned heads with his high energy, meticulous approach to coaching this summer. Now he's throwing in another wrinkle: soccer balls.
Williams is throwing soccer balls at the Ravens wide receivers during individual drills. It's an idea he came up with about six months ago.
The idea, Williams said, is to work on their catching approach, hand placement and dexterity in their arms and fingers. With a bigger object coming at them, the receivers have to spread their hands and fingers wide to catch it.
"I actually felt weird about doing it when I first thought of that concept," Williams said with a chuckle.
New Ravens wide receiver Sammy Watkins worked with Williams as his personal offseason coach in previous years. Asked what the benefits are of catching a soccer ball, Watkins joked, "I don't know; I'm not a soccer player."
"I did it with him in the offseason, so I'm like, 'People are probably going to look at him crazy,'" Watkins said. "But I get his whole method. You've got to spread your hands. It's bigger than a football, so hopefully, we catch the ball and don't have drops."
It speaks to Williams' approach. He's constantly in the receivers' ears about little ways they can improve their routes.
"I just continuously always try to find the best way to coach," Williams said. "I say it all the time; 'There's a lot of ways to do things, there's only one best way.' And so, I just try to continue to come up with the best way to coach, the best way to get the guys better."
Williams was an outside-the-box hire this offseason. Head Coach John Harbaugh replaced David Culley, who became the Houston Texans' head coach, with Tee Martin. While Martin handles every aspect of the wide receivers' job, Williams was hired to drill down on route-running. The two know each other from when they were both coaching in college – Williams at Nebraska and Martin at USC.
"Me and Tee used to battle in the recruiting streets for some kids. So, I knew him as a friend already," Williams said. "It's been great. The working relationship couldn't be better."
Having two coaches constantly working with the Ravens' young and talented wide receiver corps appears to be paying off, as the unit has gotten off to a hot start in training camp. It's also good for Watkins, as he gets his personal coach every day now.
"It's a blessing to have him hands on," Watkins said. "I've got him every single day to be in my ear – or when I get tired or when I mess up on this route – 'Ay, focus, focus.' So, that's the type of thing I think any athlete needs. Yes, we're older and we're grown men, but you've got to have somebody pushing you better than you're pushing yourself, and I think that's why my season and my year is going to go well."
Williams also worked as a personal coach for other NFL star wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams, who are also considered two of the game's best route-runners. Williams said he's heard from them since he took the job with the Ravens, sad that they can't work with him anymore.
"Yes, it's been kind of sad," Williams said. "For me too, because I enjoy … I've got a great relationship with all those guys, and I definitely enjoyed working with them, and I miss working with them, but I'm here now."