Exactly one year ago at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney said it was only a matter of time before his former wide receiver Mike Williams became a top-flight pro for the Chargers.
"This will be a big year for him," Swinney said in January 2018. "I promise you, Philip (Rivers), he'll figure it out and they'll find that (No. 81) quick."
Williams totaled 11 touchdowns in 2019, good for fifth among all wide receivers in the NFL. His 664 receiving yards ranked second on the team behind Keenan Allen, and Williams' three-touchdown, walk off two-point conversion game against the Kansas City Chiefs helped clinch the Chargers' first playoff berth since 2013.
Two weeks removed from his second National Championship, Swinney was back at Senior Bowl practice to support a couple of his players as they make the leap to the NFL this year. He also had some time to brag on the former Clemson All-American Williams, whose second NFL season was not so much a leap, but more of who he's always been.
"You saw Mike Williams," Swinney said. "I'm really glad that the Charger nation and the coaches and his teammates got a chance to see that version of Mike – a healthy version of Mike. So, it's big for him – big for his confidence. They had a great year, so that'll fuel him even more going into this offseason, cause again, this time last year I think everybody was hoping that the potential – (they knew he) had the potential – but now he's got the performance and that'll serve him well this offseason."
Williams' first season was derailed by a back injury that occurred during rookie minicamp. He went from appearing in 10 games in 2017 to all 16 games in 2018, plus a pair of playoff games.
His signature performance last December in Kansas City included a postgame phone call with Swinney, who referred to Williams as a "matchup nightmare."
Swinney's mantra for Clemson's football program is famously "All In." As Williams enters his third season, his college head coach – no surprise – has upped the ante.
"He's got the potential to be an All-Pro," Swinney said. "He's working his way there, but there's no doubt he can be as good as any player in that league at his position."