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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

49ers OT Trent Williams reflects on his receiver debut, which was years in the making

Nov 21, 2021 at 4:27 PM--

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Trent Williams as a receiver? That's about the last thing anyone expected to see from the San Francisco 49ers against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, but that's exactly what happened at one point during the third quarter.

The 49ers were up 20-3 en route to a 30-10 win over the Jaguars when Williams' number was called on a 3rd-and-Goal from the 1-yard line. Williams reported as an eligible receiver, after which quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo made it a point to throw the ball his way. The end result was an incomplete pass, but Williams finally got the chance he had been hoping head coach Kyle Shanahan would give him ever since he was a rookie with Washington in 2010.

"For at least 12 years. We finally got it in though," Williams said Sunday.

Shanahan was the offensive coordinator in Washington during Williams' early days in the NFL, which began after he was selected in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Williams started in on Shanahan right away about the possibility of catching a pass, but he had to wait until 2021 before it came to fruition—just over one year after reuniting with Shanahan following a trade to the 49ers in 2020.

"He's been talking to me about it since the day I met him," Shanahan said Sunday. "He's never had one, and he keeps telling me that. He's probably as good of a tackle as you could ever have to run a route. But it's tough. That's my first time really doing it and it didn't work."

Williams told reporters that Sunday was the first time he's ever been an eligible receiver in his football career, even dating back to his youth. He was understandably excited when the ball started coming his way, but much to his dismay, he had two Jaguars defenders getting physical with him when he tried to go for the ball.

"Man, it was such a blur," Williams said. "But once I saw Jimmy throw it, I'm like, 'Oh, yeah, it's my time now. I've got to go up and get this.' As soon as I left the ground, I got blasted. I don't know who hit me. I felt like there was like ten people right there. It's definitely way harder than it looks, for sure. I got definite respect for receivers now."

Williams was looking for a flag after the play, but the officials didn't see things the same way he did.

"That was bad, right? I don't know why my coach didn't challenge that or something," Williams said. "That's crazy. I know that ain't legal."

Shanahan didn't feel compelled to issue a challenge, as Williams mentioned. But he did agree that the Jaguars were a bit handsy with Williams on the play.

"I was prepared if he scored for a penalty, which I warn him not to," Shanahan said. "But yeah, it was close. He did a good job. I thought he got tugged a little bit. I know he did. He was calling for it, but it just wasn't there."

Things were much more successful for Williams when the 49ers worked on the play during practice. He made catches in practice when given the chance ("He had a nice one-hander in practice," Garoppolo said), but he didn't plan for how he'd be defended in a game situation.

"I was wide freakin' open in practice," Williams said. "I definitely didn't expect to be double-covered. It is what it is. They get paid too."

In hindsight, Williams wishes he wasn't so eager to go into receiver mode. If he gets another chance, expect him to try to do a better job of hiding his intentions.

"When I reported, I heard the whole defense yelling, 'We've got to double-team 71,'" Williams said. "I'm joking. I don't know. I don't think I sold it long enough. I think I was a little too excited to leak out. I've got to stick in there a little bit, maybe open it up."

Maybe the only one with a hint of disappointment over the ball going Williams' way was tight end George Kittle, who was another one of Garoppolo's options during the play. But once the play was called, there was no way Garoppolo wasn't going to try to get the ball to Williams.

"I really wanted him to be triple-covered because I was on the back side and I was open. But Jimmy said he was going to throw it no matter what, so I was like 'I'll just stay in and block next time,' I guess," Kittle joked after the game.

So will Shanahan ever give Williams another chance? Maybe, but he might not be eager to do so right away. That's because sending Williams out as a receiver means the 49ers will be without their best offensive lineman for a play, which is why Shanahan is careful about when to call his number.

"When you report as eligible, you can't go in the next play. So calling that is somewhat risky," Shanahan said. "That's why Trent had to come out. You don't ever want Trent to come out. He didn't get open like he always promised me he would, so he's got to practice that route."

Or maybe Williams can just find the end zone in another way someday. Kittle has an idea that just might work.

"I would love to get him a touchdown," Kittle said. "I think we can just put him at fullback and run a fullback dive."

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