Keith Williams feels blessed that son's in good hands on Frost's staff
His situation is fairly unique, although he insists it's not awkward.
It’s just life, Keith Williams says.
During a long lunch Tuesday at Red Robin, the former Nebraska receivers coach said it’s really not difficult at all having his son, Keyan Williams, play receiver for a school that just fired the staff of which he was a part.
In fact, Keith Williams says, the situation has been a blessing in many respects.
“You just have to be realistic,” he says. “It comes down to this: My son’s happiness is more important to me than anything. He likes it there, likes the situation, likes the coaches, likes the players. I’d buy an ice cream truck and sell ice cream on the corner if you told me that would make him happy.
“What I care about is him. Plus, none of those (new) coaches are the reason I don’t coach there anymore.”
Keith Williams seems at peace. Not only is he immensely proud of his son — a senior who’s set to graduate this summer — the 47-year-old also talks at length about his daughter, Kaya, a freshman at Lincoln Southwest who plays on the varsity soccer team and carries a 4.0 grade-point average.
Williams and his wife, Ayana, reside in south Lincoln, and life is good.
Yes, of course, Keith Williams wants to coach again, either in college or the NFL, he says.
“But I’m just kind of taking advantage of this time being around my son and daughter, and letting it all play out,” he says. “I’m a believer in God’s plan.”
“I take my daughter to school and pick her up every day,” he quickly adds. “It’s incredible.”
All the while, he marvels at his son’s even-keel temperament.
“When I was his age, I was all over the place,” Keith Williams says. “I was bouncing off the walls. I wasn’t calm and relaxed and savvy like he is as an individual and player. He can adjust. He's so laid-back that no circumstance throws him off. When I was his age, circumstances would throw me off.”
Williams and the rest of the previous Nebraska staff were let go almost immediately after last season’s 4-8 finish, and new head coach Scott Frost brought his entire staff from Central Florida, including offensive coordinator Troy Walters, who doubles as receivers coach.
Although it created an imperfect circumstance for Williams and his family, it obviously helps that he’s still being paid by Nebraska.
Bottom line, he was never overly concerned about Keyan's reaction.
“I knew he would react in the right manner, and I knew what I would tell him would help him through it, if necessary,” Keith Williams says.
The elder Williams’ message: “Approach it through the lens of your own life, not from the lens of my life. Don’t add me into the equation. Approach it through your vision for yourself, and it’ll be fine.”
It’s in many ways a common-sense discussion in that the elder Williams is in a profession in which coaches are fired routinely.
That said, we’re still talking about families facing uncertain futures.
I’m not sure I’d have the stomach for coaching.
“Think about it. What good would it do to be bitter?” Keith Williams asks. “How would that help? If you're Keyan, why would you pout? How would that help you?”
The elder Williams stays busy. He continues to train receivers, including a cadre of current NFL players, at Speedway Village. During our lunch, Kansas City Chiefs standout Tyreek Hill called Williams' cellphone to arrange a workout. Ryan Grant of the Indianapolis Colts recently was in town and will return next week.
Ex-Husker Brandon Reilly, now of the Buffalo Bills, swears by Williams.
"People know he's a great guy, but I think he's even more spectacular than people know. I can't thank him enough,” Reilly says.
Simply put, Williams was put on earth to be a coach.
Of course, he’s also a proud husband and father — one who felt a bit lost April 21 when he went to Memorial Stadium with his wife and daughter to watch Keyan in the Red-White Spring Game.
“I didn’t know what gate to go to,” the elder Williams says with a wide grin. “It wasn’t the same gate my wife used to go to when she came to see me. We were asking people, ‘Hey, where is Gate 22?’ It was crazy. My daughter’s like, ‘Dad, you don’t even know how to get us in!’
“I had to ask, like, three people.”
He’s laughing as he recounts the scene, clearly comfortable with the whole situation. He knows Keyan’s getting good coaching. After all, Walters won the Biletnikoff Award in 1999 at Stanford as the nation's top receiver.
“I know this: Walters was nasty, and I’ll bet you he didn’t have 100 grabs,” Williams says. “I’ll bet he had less than 80 catches.”
Bingo. Walters as a senior caught 74 passes for 1,456 yards and 10 touchdowns. That’s 19.7 yards per reception, which certainly gets your attention.
“But it wasn’t necessarily a 'stats Biletnikoff,'” Williams says. “It was a 'playmaking Biletnikoff.' He was just gettin’ busy.”
Williams knows a playmaker when he sees one.
He also knows a happy kid when he sees one. His son and daughter are happy in Lincoln.
Which explains the smile you still see on Williams.