Football a family affair for Ravens' top picks Perriman, Williams

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Breshad Perriman and Maxx Williams will forever be linked as the first two Ravens picks of the 2015 draft, but the standout pass catchers share another connection as second-generation NFL players.
With fathers who combined to play 21 years in the NFL, Perriman and Williams have a lot to live up to in not only becoming immediate starters for the current Baltimore offense, but they’ll also try to step outside of their fathers’ NFL shadows. Brett Perriman, a standout receiver at the University of Miami, caught 525 passes and 30 touchdowns in 10 NFL seasons with New Orleans, Detroit, Kansas City, and Miami. Brian Williams spent 11 seasons as a center with the New York Giants, appearing in 129 games and making 62 starts.
Of course, a strong bloodline doesn’t guarantee success as Jarrett Payton — the son of the late Walter Payton — and Jerry Rice Jr. both went undrafted after their collegiate careers. But both Perriman and Williams hope their professional careers play out more like Peyton and Eli Manning, who have both surpassed their father’s acclaim in the NFL by wide margins.
Though not a trait the Ravens were intentionally seeking — general manager Ozzie Newsome admitted he wasn’t even aware that Williams’ father had played in the NFL before drafting the Minnesota tight end — it’s clear that the organization views the circumstance as a positive trait.
“The thing that I like about Perriman is that he has grown up around the game of football with his dad, Brett,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said. “He’s been around Michael Irvin, Bennie Blades, Brian Blades, and all of those guys [from Miami], so the game is not going to be too big for him.”
Breshad Perriman has already surpassed his father in terms of where he was drafted after being picked 26th overall by the Ravens. The senior Perriman was drafted by the Saints in the second round of the 1988 draft.
Brett’s greatest success came in Detroit while playing with former Ravens quarterback Scott Mitchell. Posting 1,488 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in 1995 and following that with another 1,000-yard season in 1996, Brett Perriman has shared his experiences with his 21-year-old son, who was too young to remember his father’s playing days.
“For me looking up to him when I was a child, I kind of wanted to follow in his footsteps,” Breshad Perriman said. “Once I created a great passion for the game, I wanted to make a name for myself. I’m slowly doing that, and I feel like there’s no one else better to celebrate that with.”
Similar to his new teammate, Maxx Williams was only five when his father retired from football, but it was actually his mother, Rochelle, who taught him how to catch. She and Brian Williams also attended the University of Minnesota where she played volleyball and he was a future first-round pick for the Gophers. Maxx’s grandfather was a quarterback at Notre Dame and was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1959 before choosing to go to medical school.
Such a bloodline would make you wonder if complacency would be a problem, but the 2015 second-round pick exceeded expectations at Minnesota where he made 25 receptions for 417 yards and five touchdowns as a redshirt freshman and was named a finalist for the John Mackey Award last year after catching 36 passes for 569 yards and eight touchdowns as a sophomore.
With some already touting the 6-foot-4, 250-pound target as an offensive rookie of the year candidate, what advice did Williams’ father offer him about life in the NFL?
“You have to earn respect,” the 21-year-old tight end said. “You have to go in, shut your mouth, and go to work every day and earn the respect of your teammates and show who you are, because now you’re at the highest level where no matter what, everyone’s the best there is.”
Having dealt with the reality of trying to escape their fathers’ shadow for most of their lives, Perriman and Williams will have a better idea of what to expect as they prepare for their first minicamp later this week. With the Ravens needing both to fill significant roles as rookies, their bloodlines and mentors figure to help along the way.
Now playing in an organization that values family — beginning with head coach John Harbaugh who grew up the son of a longtime college coach and regularly has his father around the training facility — Perriman and Williams should fit right in despite high expectations. The former didn’t wait long to find another tie to his father’s NFL career when he met the inspirational O.J. Brigance on Friday.
“I don’t think he really knew the O.J. story, and he went in and Breshad was great,” Harbaugh said. “O.J. was talking through his machine, and he said, ‘I played with your dad in Miami,’ and Breshad was like, ‘Wow!’ They played together in 1997, I think it was. Another amazing connection.”