When Maxx Williams underwent a rare corrective knee surgery this past offseason, there was no guarantee that he would be able to play football again.
In fact, doctors told him and the Ravens that no football player had ever returned to the field from it.
Not only did Williams come back and start in the Ravens’ first game of the 2017 season, but he scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown in Saturday’s 23-16 win over the Indianapolis Colts.
Williams scored a 4-yard touchdown with eight minutes, 40 seconds left in the fourth quarter. It was his first touchdown since Nov. 15, 2015, during his rookie season.
On Tuesday, Head Coach John Harbaugh said he was “really happy” for Williams.
“To me, Maxx is pretty remarkable,” Harbaugh said. “He came back from a knee [surgery] that has never been done before, at least in the football. I don’t even know if an athlete has ever done it before.”
Williams downplayed the emotional significance of his touchdown after the game. He said the only thing he cared about was helping his team win. But his teammates knew it meant a lot.
Fellow tight end Benjamin Watson leads the team with four receiving touchdowns. Even fullback Patrick Ricard, a converted defensive lineman, has two. Nick Boyle got into the end zone on a two-point conversion catch.
“It’s nice to get Maxx in,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “You know he’s itching to get in the end zone. He’s in my ear a lot, in a fun way, but you know he wants to get in and have some fun.”
Williams’ touchdown wasn’t all that glitzy. He lined up in the backfield as a fullback and the Colts didn’t cover him when he slid out into the flat. He didn’t have any creative touchdown celebration and didn’t even know where the football ended up.
“I wasn’t thinking much about it, but I’ll take it as a Christmas present,” Williams said.
The substance-over-style touchdown suits Williams. The 2015 second-round pick has been a grinder during his three years.
The 6-foot-4, 257-pound Minnesota product isn’t all that fast and he doesn’t make many defenders miss – especially after his knee injury. After setting Ravens franchise records for receptions (32) and receiving yards (268) as a rookie tight end, Williams didn’t make any catches in just four games last year and has 15 catches for 86 yards this season.
But what Williams does well is a lot of the smaller, grittier stuff that goes unnoticed.
He’s been a strong blocker in the Ravens’ revamped running attack. When the ball does come his way, he catches it (18 targets, 15 receptions). He’s a tough guy to bring down, usually dragging defenders a couple extra yards, and has a nose for the sticks.
“I think Maxx doesn’t always get the credit he deserves,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a very physical player, he plays really hard. He’s a factor out here, people know where he’s at, they have to. He has good hands, he makes contested catches.
“He’s not the prettiest athlete in the world; I think that’s probably what people see sometimes, and that’s OK. People like pretty. Maxx isn’t that as an athlete, but he’s tough and he’s a good football player. I’m sure glad we have him.”