By David Driver
Former Maryland football standout LaQuan Williams had been with the Los Angeles Kiss just briefly last season when the Arena Football League team folded.
“I was only there for two weeks,” said Williams, a product of Poly High in Baltimore. “I was not expecting that to happen. My focus at the moment was my school and to create my plan B.”
Williams has taken online courses as he works towards a master’s degree and he hopes to one day own and run a restaurant/lounge.
But Williams, who last played for the Baltimore Ravens in 2012, is now back with another pro football team in the area.
The wide receiver made his debut with the Baltimore Brigade of the Arena Football League on April 7 as the Brigade lost 51-38 to the Washington Valor at the Verizon Center in downtown Washington. Both teams are owned by Monumental Sports, which also runs the Verizon Center.
Williams caught an 11-yard touchdown from quarterback Shane Carden to cut the lead to 34-13. Williams had his second touchdown catch late in the game to account for the final score. Carden was 21 of 32 for 197 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for two scores.
“I think it was a successful night if you are the owner. It was not the outcome we expected,” Williams told Terrapin Times.
Williams is living in downtown Baltimore while playing for the Brigade, which will host its home games at Royal Farms Arena.
His previous experience in the AFL came in handy.
“The biggest adjustment for me had to be the space and understanding the space of where I needed to be,” Williams said of the indoor game. “It is fast-paced and exciting and physical. It is a new way of looking at football.”
Williams played for the Ravens in 2011 and 2012 and caught six passes in 23 games. He also returned punts and kickoffs for the team.
Once he left the Ravens did Williams think he would ever return to play pro ball?
“I never really thought about it,” said the 6-foot Williams, who turns 29 on June 27. “I guess it is a blessing but it is not something I have thought about.”
“It is a professional setting,” Williams said of the AFL. “You have practice, you have lifting, workouts and films. It is a blessing to be out there. Hopefully we can bring the city some wins.”
Williams has not been able to see the Terps in person under head coach DJ Durkin. But the former Maryland wideout keeps in touch with some of his former college teammates, including fellow wide receiver Torrey Smith.
Williams and Smith were teammates with the Ravens and Smith recently signed a contract with the Philadelphia Eagles after he had played two years for the San Francisco 49ers. Smith was able to catch the Maryland men’s basketball team in action this past winter in College Park.
“He is excited to be back on the East Coast and be close to his family and get acclimated with a new system” with the Eagles, Williams said of Smith, who grew up in Northern Virginia.
Williams said the season-opening loss shows that the Brigade needs to get off to a faster start.
“We can't start off like that,” Brigade wide receiver Reggie Gray told reporters. “I understand there were nerves, first game ever. We have a young quarterback and young players on the offensive side. I have to do a better job of getting my guys ready, a better job of breaking down film, and we just can't start off like that. You just can't get down 30 something to six... I mean it's Arena Football anything can happen but you can't put your defense in situations like that. I just have to do a better job of getting the offense ready.”
“We as a team and as a coaching staff talked about players coming out and playing with a little bit more energy, but at the end of the day we lost and that's not our expectation, so we weren't good enough today,” Baltimore head coach Omarr Smith told reporters after the game. “Well we were down 34-6, and in this game if you’re down 34-6 and you can’t move offensively that's a problem. If you have a problem, as a head coach you have to find a way to fix that problem.”
The Brigade was slated to play its second game in team history on April 15 on the road at the Cleveland Gladiators.
Baltimore and Washington are both first-year teams that should become natural rivals.
"When I first got out here, people who didn't know too much about the AFL were saying, ‘you better beat the Brigade, you guys better beat Baltimore’, so you can kind of sense the rivalry between the two cities going on. Obviously it showed a little bit on the field, being competitive out there. Both teams just trying to win and do what they can, but unfortunately they got the short end of the stick,” Washington quarterback Erik Meyer told reporters.
Williams and Gray give Baltimore two major offensive targets.
“To play the game that I love, get paid for it, being able to support my family, it’s a blessing,” Williams told The Baltimore Sun. “I’m out here just running around, competing with other guys and just (ready) to dominate. It’s fun.”