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LaQuan Williams was last year’s Cinderella story.
He entered training camp as a little-known undrafted free agent out of Maryland who barely had a chance to show off in college due to injuries.
He seemed to have little to no chance of making the active roster.
But with standout practice after standout practice, Williams made himself impossible to cut, and was the only undrafted free agent last year to make the 53-man squad out of camp.
So what’s changed this year in Williams mind?
“I feel like I’m always in an uphill fight,” Williams said after Wednesday’s OTA practice. “I feel like I always have to prove myself because of the stigma I have.”
The stigma Williams feels he carried everywhere is being passed over by all 32 NFL teams for seven rounds. That’s something that, no matter what Williams does, can never be changed.
Williams beat out three other undrafted free agent wide receivers in training camp last year. He got a roster spot over established Ravens Justin Harper and Marcus Smith and veteran Brandon Jones.
“I had a chip on my shoulder. It was on me to come in and show these guys I could play ball,” Williams said. “I remember telling Torrey [Smith], that if I got an opportunity to do what I love, I’ll show them I belong.”
This year, Williams has just as much, if not more, competition. There are currently 13 wide receivers on the roster, and a team generally keeps five or six.
The Ravens drafted one wideout, Tommy Streeter, in the sixth round, signed another, Jacoby Jones, in free agency, and added three undrafted free agents.
“That stuff is out of my control,” Williams said. “I worry about what I can control, coming out and practice as hard as I can, studying, making sure I know what I’m doing. That’s all I’m focused on.”
Williams didn’t just make, and stay on, the active roster last year. He had an impact too, even on offense. While fellow rookie Tandon Doss didn’t record a catch, Williams snagged four balls for 46 yards, including two receptions in Pittsburgh.
This offseason, Williams said he feels much stronger both physically and mentally. He was a frequent target for quarterback Joe Flacco during Wednesday’s practice, and like last year, was impressive.
The 6-foot-0, 200-pound Williams has enough speed, plus great leaping ability to make plays down the field. He also helps his chances of making the active roster by focusing on special teams, which is why Baltimore originally signed him as an undrafted free agent.
“My main thing this year is, when I get the opportunity, don’t leave any big plays on the field,” Williams said. “I’ve got to make every big play I can. I want to be a guy that stands out on special teams and as a receiver.”