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Daniel Williams: ‘What’s your why?'

Vipers WR Daniel Williams is back where he wants to be, a football field.

PLANT CITY, Fla. -- Daniel Williams has an iron will. Within a span of three years, he bounced from practice squad to practice squad of four different NFL teams, participated in minicamp with two others, had a brief stint in the CFL, and also played for the Alliance of American Football’s Memphis Express.

Nothing stuck. Williams isn’t discouraged, though.

He just wants to be great.

“I’ve wanted to the be the best since I was five-years-old, coming from East St. Louis, coming from tough times,” Williams shared. “It’s crazy. Seeing where I am now is where I’m supposed to be. I’m just happy to be here.”

In the 4th quarter Sunday, Williams caught two long passes (42- and 37-yards) from two different QBs

A Football Life

The XFL has given Williams a platform from which to show the NFL just what they missed out on, in hopes he’ll get a shot at redemption.  

His dream to make it back to the NFL hasn’t faded. For now, though, Williams is focused on the Vipers. “First and foremost, I want to be the best teammate I can be,” he said. “I want to be the best man I can be, the best person I can be.”

“Shout out to Coach Trestman and Coach Jamie [Elizondo] for putting me in a position to be great.”

Williams graduated East St. Louis High School in 2013, where, as a senior with the Flyers, he had 39 catches for 729 yards and eight TDs.

He was recruited by Mississippi’s Jackson State University, where he was a legitimate big play threat for the Tigers in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

“It was a dream come true to go to Jackson State,” said Williams. His recruiters were confident his athletic skills and talent would someday take him to the NFL.

“I always had it in my heart that I was going to do it,” he said. “I just had to keep working hard at my craft and keep being great.”

Williams’ breakout season came as a sophomore when he hauled in 73 catches for 1,004 yards and nine touchdowns. He was a multiple time all-SWAC selection and ended his college career with a school- record 184 catches for 2,497 yards and 19 TDs.

He’s breaking out once again. In the XFL debut on Sunday, Williams put on quite a show.

Williams’ 128 yards in Sunday’s clash with the New York Guardians places him first in the league in receiving yards. He credits the Vipers offensive line for his outstanding performance.

In the 4th quarter, Williams caught two long passes (42- and 37-yards) from two different QBs, which just goes to show that he can field a deep ball from just about anyone who can throw it.

“Shout out to Aaron Murray, shout out to Quinton Flowers. Without the guys, I wouldn’t have been able to make those plays.”

“At the end of the day, numbers don’t mean anything if you don’t win. We just got to get back to the drawing board and keep working.”

Williams’ coaches both agree that his hard-working nature and athleticism have been assets to the team since he was drafted.

“He wins on the edges, wins down the middle,” said head coach Marc Trestman. “He has really strong hands and makes plays – it shows up every day in practice, and it showed up during the game.”

“He is such a hard worker,” said offensive coordinator/receivers coach Jamie Elizondo. “When you look at his notes and his notetaking… he’s always a guy that’s on the field extra. He’s has so many physical skills, and it’s been fun watching his progress and his growth.”

A look inside William's locker at Plant City Stadium

Inspiration for Living

Williams’ locker at the Plant City Stadium practice facility is lined with photos, magazine clippings, and a hand-written list of goals – each item inspires him to always be great at what he does.

“It’s motivation. When you look in the locker, ‘What’s your why?’”

Along with clippings of East St. Louis’ own Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Kellen Winslow Sr., and Miles Davis is a picture of Jaylon McKenzie. As an 8th grader, McKenzie was number one in the nation and had offers to play football at four different colleges. The 14-year-old was fatally shot last spring in East St. Louis. 

Williams plays the game for McKenzie, to honor his memory so that he’s never forgotten, and wears a Long Live Jaylon bracelet as a tribute to his fallen friend.

“He’s living through me right now. I’m going to give everything I’ve got for that kid.”

Follow Williams on Instagram @81_Degrees.