BURBANK — James Williams returned to Burbank High ready to begin a new chapter in his life.
Williams dazzled with his impressive speed and skill as a running back at Burbank, leading to him being bestowed with plenty of postseason recognition before enjoying an impressive career at Washington State University.
Williams wanted to give back to the Media City and hatched the idea of starting up the Burbank High Football Camp.
The first installment of the three-day event began Tuesday and concluded Thursday with the former All-Area and All-Pacific League honoree helping orchestrate a series of drills to a group of 15 participants at Burbank High’s Kemp-Kellem Field.
“We didn’t have camps around Burbank when I was in high school, so I went to camps in Carson and elsewhere to help me learn and improve,” said Williams, an Ohio native who graduated from Burbank in 2015. “One of the big things I learned about was foot speed and how it’s so important to get it down no matter what position you are playing.
“I wanted to have something similar here in Burbank and it’s great to be back. I want to give this group a condensed version from what I learned in high school and college and help them get started on the basic drills.”
Williams, who helped Washington State defeat Iowa State in the Alamo Bowl in December, worked for nearly three hours per day with the campers on a series of agility drills and other exercises. Williams, who rushed for 560 yards and 12 touchdowns in 122 carries last season, explained the purpose of each drill and watched the group complete them.
The participants, ranging from age 6-16, also competed in one-on-one exercises.
“You just introduce them to the drills and see what they can do and how you can help them to get better,” said Williams, who caught 83 passes for 613 yards and four touchdowns and received PAC-12 honorable mention last season. “If you have a tough time completing the drill, just continue to go full speed and not put your head down if something goes wrong.
“That also applies to, life. If you see something you want out there, you have the ability to get it. You’re going to have to work hard to get it.”
Burbank coach Adam Colman said the camp has the potential to soar.
“We’ve had some camps around here off and on throughout the years, but to have somebody like James come back and teach is huge,” said Colman, whose team took second in the Pacific League and advanced to the playoffs last season. “He’s a very special person and not many players come through Burbank and go on to play at the Division I level.
“It’s a chance for the people attending the camp to grasp the fundamentals from James and he’s ready to teach them and offer his support.”
Several campers showed up prepared for the exercises.
Rony Preza, who will be a freshman at Burbank in the fall, plans to try out for the school’s freshman squad.
“I’m a running back and slot receiver, so James is the perfect person to learn from,” Preza, 14, said. “He’s taught me about acceleration and how to stride when you have the ball.
“It’s cool when you can learn from somebody like him. It’s going to want me to do better.”
Izeyah Gudiel, 14, agreed.
“I’ve known James for a while and I watched him play at Burbank,” said Gudiel, who will be a freshman at Burbank. “He’s been my personal trainer and it’s great to talk to him because he can give you positive feedback and tell you the different things you need to work on.”
The 6-foot Williams opted to forgo his senior season at Washington State and entered the NFL Draft in April. Williams wasn’t selected by any of the 32 franchises in the seven-round draft, but joined the Kansas City Chiefs as an undrafted free agent.
Williams reported to Kansas City and made the 90-man roster before being released in early June.
“It was tough to not be drafted, but I have no regrets,” said Williams, who plans to finish college and optain a degree. “It was great to get a chance at Kansas City, but the running back position was so packed. You had to read and learn a huge play book and it was almost like learning and speaking a foreign language.
“I had suffered a hamstring injury in early April and it took me some time to recover from that. For me, it’s just about staying in shape and maybe I’ll get a call from a team.”