Raiders' Tyrell Williams returns to 'second home,' fulfills father's dream

Raiders' Tyrell Williams returns to 'second home,' fulfills father's dream

OAKLAND -- Tyrell Williams agreed to terms on a four-year contract with the Raiders this offseason, an exciting moment that initially existed only in the abstract.

Formally signing it brought about a emotional, unexpected reality check.

He was joining a Raiders franchise steeped in tradition he knew all too well, and that meant something to the Williams family.

Tyrell’s father Ray Williams is Oakland born and bred, a former Oakland Tech and Laney College cornerback. He is a proud, card-carrying citizen of Raider Nation who told his children all about Lester Hayes and Mike Haynes and George Atkinson, about Kenny Stabler and Cliff Branch and Fred Biletnikoff.

That isn’t why Tyrell Williams chose the Silver and Black. The money was right. So was the scheme fit and fellow skill players and the quarterback.

Tyrell thought it cool how the stars aligned, but didn’t realize how much playing in here would mean until he showed up to sign his contract.

That’s when childhood memories came flooding back.

“I have been out to Oakland a bunch of times visiting my grandmother’s house every summer,” Williams said. “When I signed, I went driving by that house, which is 15 minutes away from the facility, and saw places where I used to play with my cousins. It just made me feel at home. I’m not from Oakland, but this place is familiar and important to me. It’s like a second home, and it will be so great to play in front of my family. It has been awesome.”

Williams isn’t expected to play in Saturday’s preseason opener against the L.A. Rams, but his second-home debut will come soon enough.

Ray Williams already can’t wait for that day, the moment he sees his son run onto the Oakland Coliseum turf wearing his favorite colors. The time leading up to that day has been something special, one that has reinforced a strong bond between father and son.

Ray Williams has been in Napa most of training camp, rocking an all-access pass that allows him to roam the practice field and experience Tyrell’s first Napa summer up close and personal.

“It’s so surreal,” Ray Williams said. “I don’t take a single second for granted. I am loving this whole experience, and seeing how well Tyrell is doing. I pinch myself every single day seeing my son playing for the Silver and Black. It’s incredible.”

Raiders wide receiver Tyrell Williams (left from center) and father Ray Williams (center) poses with his family in Napa. (Photo courtesy of Williams family)

Tyrell is fitting in well with head coach Jon Gruden and quarterback Derek Carr. He’s proving far more than a big-bodied deep threat. He has deceptive sprinter’s speed using long, effortless strides, and has been proficient creating quick separation on short and intermediate routes. He has been the alpha receiver with Antonio Brown sidelined, and will be a major part of this Raiders attack.

Ray Williams believes the Raiders are getting Tyrell’s best, and he should know. He coached Tyrell and his older brother R.J. in youth football and a Cascade High school just outside Salem, Ore. He has seen Williams evolve from youth quarterback to standout high school and college receiver. And, even now that Tyrell’s ability rivals the NFL’s top tier, Ray Williams still watches his son play through a coaches lens.

“I just can’t help myself,” Ray Williams said. “When he’s out there and I’m pulling for him to succeed, I still see the game that way. I’m critiquing and watching and taking mental notes. And, playing defensive back, I think about how he’s being covered from the other side.”

Ray brings a defensive back’s perspective and a coaches’ eye to Tyrell's work, but he also knows when being a supportive dad is most important.

Williams is an established NFL player now, but he entered the league as an undrafted free agent with the Chargers out of small-school Western Oregon University. There was no guarantee Williams would make the 53-man roster in San Diego, and the uncertainty can wear on anyone trying to realize a dream.

“My dad has always come to my training camps,” Tyrell said. “It was really helpful to me as a rookie, to have somebody there when things aren’t really going your way. That really helps you out.”

Ray was there for so many of important talks during that 2015 training camp, and knew how hard Tyrell fought to make the team despite coming in without draft status and pedigree. That’s why one phone call made this grown man cry.

“We were headed to a wedding in Medford, Ore.,” Ray Williams said. “We were at the hotel and I got a call in the afternoon, and he said, ‘Dad, I’m on the 53.” I just went crazy. You could’ve heard me through the entire hotel. I was just losing my mind. It was the best, best feeling.”

Tyrell credits his father, and his older brother and former teammate R.J. – the brothers played two years together in high school and college -- for pushing him to be his best, work hard and realize vast potential.

Tyrell Williams (left), Ray Williams (center) and R.J. Williams (second from right) poses with friends and family during his college days (Photo courtesy of Williams family)

That helped Williams through a rookie camp’s anxiety, and was the foundation upon which he has become an established and respected NFL receiver.

[RELATED: Raiders impressed with Williams' speed]

Williams believes this season will be his best, and that he’ll help bring his father’s favorite team back to prominence. The opportunity to do so in his second home of Oakland, is one neither father nor son will take for granted.

“Each year he has gotten better and better, and now he’s ready to play a big role for the Raiders,” Ray Williams said. “I think this is going to be an amazing year.”

NFL rumors: Donald Trump says season should start on time despite coronavirus

NFL rumors: Donald Trump says season should start on time despite coronavirus

President Donald Trump held a call with the commissioners of major American sports leagues Saturday, and offered a prediction for the upcoming NFL season.

Trump told NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the other members on the call that the NFL season should start on time despite the coronavirus outbreak, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Adam Schefter reported. Trump reportedly told the commissioners that he expects arenas and stadiums to be filled come August and September, according to Wojnarowski and Schefter.

However, it's currently unclear if public health officials agree with Trump's prediction. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as well as a lead member of the White House's coronavirus taskforce, told Warriors star Steph Curry that sports only can return once the country as a whole has turned the corner with the outbreak and the medical system no longer is under strain. Then it will be easier to identify cases, and the cities won't be overwhelmed.

It is unknown when sports will return and how it will look when they do.

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While Trump's optimism might lift some spirits, it will be up to public health officials to determine when it is safe for sports to begin and be held with fans in attendance. With many epidemiologists expecting the virus to surge in the fall, the NFL's season could be in jeopardy.

While all major sports currently are on pause, the NFL is planning to start the season on schedule and hold games as normal with fans in attendance.

The NBA suspended its season indefinitely after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 on March 11. The NHL, MLB, PGA Tour and MLS all followed suit, with the NCAA choosing to cancel the men's and women's tournaments altogether.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver reportedly said on the call that his league would love to "lead the way" in jumpstarting the economy but they only can do so once they are told by public health officials that it is safe.

[RELATED: Raiders reportedly eyeing DT at No. 19 in draft]

Trump reportedly also brought up the idea of the leagues lobbying for a tax credit that used to exist for fans. This credit would allow fans to deduct concessions and ticket prices from their taxes, according to Schefter and Wojnarowski.

The call included commissioners and top executives from the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, WNBA, WWE, PGA Tour, LPGA, UFC, IndyCar and Breeders' Cup, according to a White House pool report.

As of Saturday, there were more than 270,000 cases of coronavirus in the United States and more than 7,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and NBC News reporting.

NFL draft rumors: Raiders expected to take defensive tackle in Round 1

NFL draft rumors: Raiders expected to take defensive tackle in Round 1

The Raiders stocked up in free agency, spending big to fix a defense that was leaky at best in 2019.

Coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock now must turn their attention to hitting another home run in the NFL draft. With the No. 12 and No. 19 overall picks, most expect the Raiders, who have glaring needs at wide receiver and cornerback, to address those holes in some manner with their first two picks. That might not be where Gruden and Mayock are planning to go, though.

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller reported Friday, citing league sources, that most around the league expect the Silver and Black to draft a top wide receiver with the No. 12 pick, but use their second pick on a "middle-of-the-field" defender since the Raiders would like to make an upgrade at defensive tackle.

The middle of the field was a massive problem for the Raiders' defense in 2019. But they went out and added defensive tackle Maliek Collins and linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski to lead the unit. They also lucked into signing safety Damarious Randall, upgrading the middle of the field at all three levels.

However, the Raiders do still need some help in the middle of their defensive line. Collins is young and thrives beating double teams, but he only signed a one-year deal. Maurice Hurst had a nice 2019 but he still needs to improve and Johnathan Hankins, while great against the run, doesn't move the needle rushing the passer.

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If the Raiders do want to draft a defensive tackle -- it might not be the best use of a first-round pick -- there are a few elite talents they could look at.

Derrick Brown leads this year's defensive tackle class. The 6-foot-5, 318-pound Auburn product might be the most complete defensive tackle to enter the draft since Aaron Donald. He has powerful hands, an unreal motor and can play in odd and even fronts. He's a Day 1 plug-and-play starter with All-Pro potential. Brown is expected to be a top-10 pick so the likelihood of him donning and Silver and Black is low.

Second on the list is South Carolina's Javon Kinlaw. The 6-foot-5, 315-pound Gamecock is an elite pass-rusher with all the tools and the strength of a bull. He has a great first step and unreal explosiveness. Kinlaw might be a shade below Brown but he appears to have Pro Bowler written all over him. He could be available for the Raiders at No. 12, but it's doubtful he slips to No. 19.

The next two players are end of Day 1-beginning of Day 2 guys, which means the Raiders must be sure they can contribute right away to take them at No. 19 or must trade down to make the pick lineup with the talent.

Next up is TCU's Ross Blacklock, a 6-foot-4, 305-pound load who has all the goods to be a star at the NFL level. Blacklock has the size, length, power and athleticism to be a dynamic playmaker at the NFL level. While some evaluators believe it might take him some time to adjust to the NFL game, he has all the tools you want in a three-down interior defensive lineman.

The last high-end interior defensive lineman is Oklahoma's Neville Gallimore. The rare defensive tackle that is defined by his speed, the 6-foot-2, 302-pound Gallimore has all the looks of a Day 1 NFL starter who can collapse the pocket and put the quarterback on his heels. His quickness, motor and power are traits that leap off the tape.

[RELATED: McKinney headlines top DB prospects for Raiders to target]

Now a middle-of-the-field defender could mean a safety like Alabama's Xavier McKinney, which would mean the Raiders would shift Randall to corner where they have a huge hole after Eli Apple's contract couldn't get finalized.

If Kinlaw or Brown falls to the Raiders, Gruden and Mayock should snap them up. Both would be a powerful inside presence who could open up rushing lanes for Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby.

But if both are off the board and corner like Florida's C.J. Henderson or even LSU's Kristian Fulton still are available, it might be wise to address to cornerback need first and see if a defensive tackle like Davon Hamilton,  Raekwon Davis or Justin Madubuike falls to them in the third round.