“Ever since I can remember I was around athletes,” he explained. “Sure, it was baseball, but you learn how to conduct yourself, you learn it’s a business and it’s an advantage seeing that at a young age.”
Williams, you see, is the son of Chicago White Sox general manager Kenny Williams, who played football himself for Stanford. He was a batboy during spring training while his dad was a scout and remembers idolizing shortstop Ozzie Guillen, who would go on to be famous as the manager who can’t stop from cussing in interviews. “I was always trying to be around him and play catch with him,” the younger Williams recalled. “I guess he wasn’t the best role model.”
Drafted by his father in the 47th round, Williams has been a two sport athlete most of his life but made the decision to choose football as a senior. Actually, the decision was sort of made for him, by ex-49ers coach Dennis Erickson, who’s now coaching the Sun Devils. “I was always doing both sports but Coach Erickson wasn’t fond of me doing that so my senior year I had to put all my focus on one thing and the results came,” he said.
Indeed they did. Williams caught 57 passes for 815 yards and scored eight touchdowns in 2009 and was second team All Pac-10 as a punt returner as well, with a 10.0 average. It's that skill actually that might be his ticket on the 53-man roster, as newly-acquired Ted Ginn is more of a kick returner who hasn't returned punts full time since his rookie season in 2007. Still, Williams’ receiving talents can’t be dismissed either.
“He’s a different kind of receiver than we have,” said Director of Player Personnel Trent Baalke. “He’s a smaller body guy, with great quickness, who’s very competitive. A lot of slot guys are 4.7, 4.8 [in the 40-yard dash], but he was a 4.4 guy at the combine. No one on this team has his kind of quickness, athleticism and change-of-direction.”
Williams was thrilled to be returning home to the Bay Area (he was born in San Jose) and said his brother, a huge 49ers fan, got him to root for the team as a kid and watch all their games. "I spent a lot of my life here before we moved to Chicago and it's basically my second home," he said. "I've still got a lot of uncles and cousins here, a lot of faithful 49ers fans in my family and I know my grandmother is ecstatic that I'll get to play close to her.”
The rookie is positive he chose the right sport now, and remarked that being drafted by the 49ers was “200 percent” better than being drafted in baseball. Now, he’s in camp, trying to learn his playbook and blend in with the veterans. In fact, aside from meeting Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree, only one other person on the field made Williams pinch himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming.
“Coach Singletary,” he laughed, “from growing up in Chicago.”
Adams Ready To Lay The Wood
As a 7th-round pick from unknown South Carolina State, Phillip Adams has no delusions of grandeur. He knows that just making the team is going to be an uphill battle, but he’s willing to do whatever it takes. “I’m a cornerback, but I know special teams will be big for me, and nickel packages will be big for me,” he said. “I’ve got to contribute any way I can.”
At 5'11 and 193 pounds, Adams has the kind of size the 49ers want in their corners and is a hard hitter as well. The team was intrigued enough to have him over for a visit at their Santa Clara complex. "He's a physical guy, he'll come up and hit you, and he can run," Singletary said, before adding the disclaimer, "But he's real raw."
Adams was first team All-MEAC last season, and was fifth on his team with 53 tackles, and tied for first with three interceptions, two of which he took back for touchdowns. The scouting report on him is that he's an imposing corner who excels in playing press coverage, but isn’t nearly as good playing off his man, due to having stiff hips.
“Man-to-man is what I like to do and corners in this system have a lot of freedom and I’m a physical player so the way it breaks down is I can press at times and be in zone at other times,” he said, before explaining that as a converted safety so he does have experience playing zone.
Baalke was impressed enough by Adams that he selected him with the team’s last draft pick, not wanting to risk losing him to another team as an undrafted free agent. “He’s not afraid to mix it up and at the corner position that’s not easy to find,” he said. The team’s main priority now will be to coach the “young eyes” out of Adams, so he doesn’t get suckered on double moves or on play-action passes.
For his part Adams was happy not to have to deal with the free agent process. “My agent had some teams lined up but I’m glad the 49ers took me,” he said. “This was going to be one of my top choices and I liked Coach Singletary and the mentality he brings.”
Apparently, the feeling is mutual.