For Poly grad Williams, NFL dream has just begun

For LaQuan Williams, earning a spot on the Ravens' active roster is just one stage of his mission in the NFL.

"Making the team was just Phase 1," the rookie wide receiver said after Monday's practice at the team's training facility in Owings Mills. "Now I have to master my craft. Just keep standing out and making plays."

Williams' presence on the 53-man roster extends the organization's tradition of finding and cultivating rookie free agents. Williams, a Poly and University of Maryland graduate, joins a group that includes linebackers Bart Scott, Jameel McClain and Dannell Ellerbe, running back Priest Holmes, center Mike Flynn and safety Will Demps.

And like those players, Williams is expected to contribute perhaps early and often.

"He had no other offers to be a free agent anywhere, and here he comes in and makes the team," said coach John Harbaugh, who credited special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg and assistant special teams coach Marwan Maalouf with unearthing Williams. "That's just a great story. It's going to be fun to see where it goes from here. He's on the team for a reason. He's on the team to contribute on special teams and offense, so we'll see how he grows. We'll see what happens."

One area that Williams could make an immediate impact is on kick returns.

David Reed, the primary kick returner in the latter half of 2010, will miss Sunday's season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers while serving a one-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. And Jalen Parmele, who took a majority of kickoffs in the first half of the season, was released by the team on Saturday.

Lardarius Webb is listed as Reed's backup on kick returns, but Webb is also the primary punt returner. And if he plays a lot of snaps as the fifth defensive back in the defense's nickel package, that could open the door for Williams.

Williams did not return a kick for the Terps last season, but he averaged 30.5 yards on two kick returns in the preseason with the Ravens.

Williams said he wasn't sure whether he would be asked to return kicks on Sunday, but he said he was willing to accept the task.

"I'm going to try to make the best opportunity every chance I get,' he said. "I'm just waiting."

Williams also has an outside shot at lining up as the No. 3 wide receiver, but it's believed that he is trailing rookies Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss for the opportunity to play alongside starters Anquan Boldin and Lee Evans.

Even if Williams' appearances against Pittsburgh are limited, he's already proven to be a success story for the students and faculty at Poly. Football coach Roger Wrenn pointed out that Williams is latest in line of NFL players from the school – a list that includes former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Antonio Freeman, former Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Mike Pitts and former Washington Redskins quarterback Jack Scarbath.

"There's a proud tradition of football players who have come from Poly, but we're extremely proud of him," said Wrenn, who coached at Patterson when Williams was playing at Poly. "… He's a real classy kid, a nice guy. When he comes back to visit, he's always real nice to the current players. He's not at all full of himself."

Williams said he takes being a role model seriously.

"It's always a good thing," he said. "Being a guy from Baltimore City, there's a lot of bad things going on in neighborhoods, and just being a guy that stands out and is different, it's a great feeling."

His emotions will be magnified on Sunday when Williams steps onto the field at M&T Bank Stadium. Williams conceded that he would be a bit nervous, but he also said that he is grateful for reaching this stage in his career.

"Especially being a locker room with guys like Ed Reed and Ray Lewis and Ray Rice, it's definitely surreal," Williams said. "But now, it's to the point where I've kind of gotten used to it, and it's time to step up and be a good player."


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