You can’t keep a gritty guy down.
After the Falcons chose to part ways with depth receiver Nick Williams in the spring, those on Team Scrappy mourned the loss.
Outside of him being one of the most enjoyable players to Tweet about, between the myriad of “lunch pail” and “grit” puns, Williams was a nice secret weapon for the team to throw out from time to time. He was elusive as a slot receiver, particularly in that ill-fated 2015 campaign where he was one of the few bright spots on the sinking season.
He was beloved by Kyle Shanahan for his ability to click into the scheme and get open on third downs (boy, those couple of sneaky third down conversions from way back when). Those were the days.
As fate would have it, your intrepid Falcoholic reporter ran across Williams in his new role with the Tennessee Titans last week, and talked with him about his time in Atlanta, his new role with the Titans and how he can use being a part of Super Bowl 51 as something to learn from for the future.
If you’ll recall, Tennessee hired former Falcons QBs coach Matt LaFleur to be their new offensive coordinator, which gives Williams a leg up in acclimating to the system.
“It’s definitely an advantage to have familiarity with the system,” Williams said. “Knowing some of the terminology, and plays, and when you’re with a new coaching staff, a new system, half the battle is understanding what they want, and when they call things differently, so, it’s definitely helped out trying to see things through [LaFleur’s] lens, the offensive lens, so I think it’s definitely helped the transition.”
So, what exactly did Williams take from Atlanta in his three seasons there?
“Oh, a bunch,” he said. “Dan Quinn’s sure a phenomenal coach. A lot of his mantras and a lot of his ideologies about how he runs the team can not only help you [on the field], but in life.”
In Atlanta, Williams fashioned himself as, indeed, a third-down specialist. One wonders just how a guy like that learns to make his living in that role.
“The skill set of a slot receiver is third down,” Williams said. “A lot of times, you’ve got man coverage, and the reason why the slot receiver exists is to beat man-to-man coverage on third downs, really. So, I’ve tried to make that a point of my game to be able to separate, to be able to show up for the quarterback on third down on those crucial plays in the game.”
Another part of Williams’ tenure with the team puts him square in the middle of Super Bowl 51. He was around the organization through the entire 2016 season, and was made active at the start of their monstrous December campaign that stretched into a wonderful January.
Though he was inactive on Super Bowl Sunday itself, he knows how it felt to be in the moment, and learns the same lessons as every Falcon on the field that night.
“You have to learn from it,” Williams said, and likely other insightful musings from the moment, made indecipherable by some bizarre gust of wind that blanked out some of the response on my recording, because such is life.
We wish Williams all the best as he tries to latch on with the Titans, and hope the Legend of Scrappy continues at Nissan Stadium, and that scores of Tennessee fans will see their fair share of third-down conversions this season at the thanks of the grittiest slot receiver in the league.
And, hey, maybe, one day, we’ll get a few more of those ourselves.
After all, there’s always a place in Flowery Branch for the grit of Nick. Always will be.