In the past few years there have been an influx of “skills trainers.”  To give you guys an insider’s look into the development of athletes, I wanted to highlight a few coaches/trainers whose expertise I appreciate.  Today, we’re starting with receivers coach Keith “Dubb” Williams.  Dubb has worked with a substantial amount of talent around the NFL including Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Brandin Cooks, James Jones, and Ryan Grant to name a few.  

Working with athletes can sometimes be tricky.  The line between helping athletes improve their game and teaching them things that conflict with their current coaches’ teachings can be difficult to navigate.  When asked about his approach to working with receivers in the offseason, Dubb had this to say:

“I don’t look at it like I’m a substitute for their coach.  All I’m doing is what the young man asks me to do.  I’m here to help in whatever way that player needs help.”

Coach Dubb’s work with Kansas City Chiefs star wideoutTyreek Hill is a perfect example.  In 2016, Hill’s rookie year, Dubb had worked with former Oregon Duck standout and current Baltimore Raven De’Anthony Thomas.  Thomas received high praise during training camp for his nuanced route-running and ability to get in and out of breaks.  Hill took note of this and asked Thomas who he worked with during the offseason.  The answer was simple: “Coach Dubb.”  When the season ended, Hill felt he would have an opportunity to be a full-time starter on the outside — the Z position — during the upcoming season.  He reached out to Dubb to help him refine his intermediate route-running ability in preparation for the following year.

Though operating from the “Z” would be a transition for Hill as he’d never played primarily on the outside prior, his decision to work with Dubb Williams would prove to be beneficial.  Over his last three seasons, Hill has accumulated 220 receptions, 3,522 yards and 25 touchdowns while playing in 43 out of 48 regular season games.  Hill has exploded onto the scene as one of the most feared No. 1 receivers in the league.

“To me, the what separates guys is their intermediate game. There are more intermediate routes ran in a game than deep routes.”

That quote lines up with what Michael Irvin said about speed guys in the Hall Of Fame. There aren’t many of them. Your ability to consistently get open on intermediate routes is much more consistent than being just a pure deep threat. Tyreek Hill knows this and wanted to work more on his intermediate routes. What make Hill special is ability to use his elite speed as a threat, giving the illusion that he’s going deep, before breaking off his route.

Wanting to dig deeper into the minds of these elite players, I asked Dubb what makes guys like Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill different.  He had this to say:

“The greatest players I’ve ever been around are a little weird.  The level that you are at, you get there naturally.  To get to the next level you have to do something outside of the norm.”

Dubb went on to rave about the mentality of Packers receiver Davante Adams, who was one of his stars back when he was the receivers coach at Fresno State.  I mentioned how Adams’ production in his first two years in Green Bay was a bit lackluster.  In both seasons combined, Adams caught 88 passes for less than 1,000 yards and 4 touchdowns.  Needing a change to his game, Adams went back to his roots and resumed working with Williams.  In each of the past four seasons since working with Dubb, Adams has averaged over 1,000 yards receiving, hauling in 38 touchdowns over the stretch.

I went on to ask Dubb about some of his coaching philosophies and what he wants to get out of the receivers he works with.  He responded:

“I want them all to play as fast as they can. When it comes to route running, intermediate routes, I want you to be able to get in and out of breaks as fast as your God-given ability will allow you … Your skill set will show up in the play calling and result of the play.”

It’s Dubb’s adaptability that separates him.

Dubb is constantly learning new and innovative ways to coach receivers, whether it’s using soccer balls during training sessions, or as he puts it, science.

As Dubb tells it, a kid who does workouts with him, catches an NFL-sized football that is too large for his hands. The larger size forced him to spread his fingers more to catch the ball. When the young kid would go back to catching a smaller ball, he would effortlessly pluck the ball out of the air. Dubb took note of this while wondering if he could figure out a way to incorporate a bigger ball into his workouts. While watching TV one day, he suddenly popped up and ran to the trunk of his car to fetch one of his daughter’s soccer balls. He tossed the ball in the air to himself several times and noticed two things: one, he spread his fingers more to grip the bigger ball; and two, he caught the ball away from his body. Two fundamental details that translate to actual football. At that moment, the soccer ball was born, at least in football drills.

Here you see Tyreek Hill working with Dubb Williams. Dubb specializes in getting receivers to play fast and explode out of their breaks. The soccer ball is an added element to help improve catching the ball.

“Lately I’ve been coaching with ‘detailed simplicity’, which simply means, the details are definitely there, but they’re simple and not unnecessarily complicated, but vital to get the point across.”

Like Coach Dubb, I too have noticed how there has been some sort of vocabulary contest when when breaking down a clip or just describing a play. “Buzzword Bingo” as Coach Dubb calls it.

Ultimately the proof is in the pudding: Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams, James Jones, the list goes on. Coach Dubb has been coaching for 20 years. A big part of his success is his drills are formulated through meticulous research, study and trial and error over 20 years.  Like the great receivers he works with, Dubb is a little weird.

A good weird.  

A good weird that allows him to be one of the best in the business.