Kasen Williams credits some changes to his off-season diet and conditioning regimen for his impressive showing in Sunday's pre-season opener.
The Seattle Seahawks under Pete Carroll have thrived on devising ways to best use a player’s most defining and unique talent.
And when it comes to receiver Kasen Williams, that singular talent has been evident for years.
“Kasen has shown us the ability to get off the ground,’’ Carroll said Tuesday. “He has been a leaper all the way back to when he was in high school.’’
Sunday, Williams put that talent to use in a way that might also prove to be a true jumping off point in his NFL career.
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Williams has mostly been a practice squad player during his two-plus years with the Seahawks, though when injuries hit the receiving corps late in the season he has found himself on the 53-man roster at the end of each of the last two years, officially playing in three regular season games and all four in the playoffs.
But a new season also means a new challenge to make the roster, especially with the Seahawks adding the likes of third-round pick Amara Darboh to the receiving group as well as bringing back basically everyone who was on the team at the end of 2016.
“It’s a really good group,’’ Carroll said Tuesday. “We’ll just see what happens.’’
Sunday, though, it was Williams who made something happen, using the leaping ability that allowed him to win 4A state titles in the long, high and triple jumps as a senior at Skyline High to make four highlight-reel catches, each one seemingly more spectacular than the next good for 119 yards as the Seahawks beat the Chargers 48-17.
“Thrilling to see him make those plays,’’ Carroll said. “… That’s not surprising because we see him do it (in practice). What was great is that he got a chance to do it in the game and show that he can do that.”
Williams had little chance to show that last preseason when he was bothered by a nagging hamstring injury that limited him to one game and no catches and led to his release at the final cutdown time before he was later brought back to the practice squad and ultimately onto the active roster for the final game of the regular season.
The health struggles of last preseason led to an off-season revelation for Williams.
“You hear a lot of people in the NFL say the best ability is availability,’’ Williams said.
Williams, of course, is all too familiar with the training room having seen his UW career derailed by a devastating broken leg and displaced foot injury in 2013.
Williams says any lingering effects of that stopped being an issue “as soon as I had the Seahawks logo on my chest. My rookie year (in 2015) I was ready.’’
The kind of injury he suffered at UW is an unfortunate reality of football, the kind of thing he couldn’t do anything about.
But after what happened last preseason — after Williams had earned raves for his work in the offseason and seemed in position to make a legitimate run at a roster spot — Williams decided to do whatever it took to get his body in the best possible position to make it through camp healthy.
“Even if I’m not hurting I’m spending time in the rehab room just to make sure everything is in line,’’ Williams said.
Williams also changed his eating habits saying he switched to a diet heavier in fruits in vegetables including frequent stops at Pressed Juicery in Bellevue.
“Vegetables, fruit, all that — asparagus,’’ Williams said of the juices he drinks. “It was just the biggest improvement I made. I lost 5-6-7 pounds off just eating right.’’
He missed a couple of days early on with a slight foot injury but otherwise has made it through camp this year healthy.
And Sunday, when the likes of Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett and Darboh all sat out with injuries, Williams was ready when his number was called not once but four times.
All four catches came on fade routes thrown by backup QB Trevone Boykin, with Williams each time winning battles with Chargers rookie cornerback Michael Davis for the ball.
“I seen the ball in the air, I’m locked in,’’ said Williams, who said he also caught an additional 100 passes during workouts this offseason compared to past years. “Nothing else matters at the time. Nothing else is important. The DB is not even there. I’m just focusing on the ball.’’
Watching from home, Baldwin marveled at what he saw.
“Extremely happy for Kasen Williams and all his efforts, all his work,’’ Baldwin said. “He’s worked tirelessly to come back from injuries to get his opportunities and he got to display that. I couldn’t be happier for him just because the man he is. He’s had an uphill climb and he’s done it with grace. He’s just been patient and waited for his opportunity and I was so excited for him to be able to see him get his opportunity finally and do extremely well with it.”
Given the depth at receiver, Williams may need to show it was not just a one-time thing if he’s going to make the regular season roster.
Williams says it’s not something he worries about, that if he does what he’s supposed to “that will take care of itself.’’
But then he also makes a statement that sounds like he feels pretty good about where it’s headed.
“I do feel like I’m in my prime even though I’ve gone through some injuries and whatever,’’ he said. “Those are all in the past and I feel like I’ve got a great handle on what I need to do to get my body 100 percent ready and I feel like the sky is the limit.’’