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Vipers receiver Daniel Williams surrounds himself with motivation

Williams led XFL receivers in yardage in Week 1. He’ll get another chance to make his mark when the Vipers visit Seattle on Saturday.
Tampa Bay Vipers wide receiver Daniel Williams (81) runs off the line during an XFL football game against the New York Guardians, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, in East Rutherford, N.J. The New York Guardians won 23-3. [STEVE LUCIANO  |  AP]
Tampa Bay Vipers wide receiver Daniel Williams (81) runs off the line during an XFL football game against the New York Guardians, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, in East Rutherford, N.J. The New York Guardians won 23-3. [STEVE LUCIANO | AP]
Published Feb. 14

PLANT CITY — Not too many players decorate their locker room stall like Daniel Williams.

The Tampa Bay Vipers wide receiver has four photos and an ongoing list of goals in the top left corner, giving him a daily reminder of why he’s here.

“It’s just motivation,” Williams said. “When you look in your locker, what’s your why?”

Among his featured photos: Kellen Winslow, Miles Davis and Jaylon McKenzie. A Pro Football Hall of Famer, a legendary musician and an eighth-grade football player from near Williams’ hometown who was killed by a stray bullet last May.

McKenzie was supposed to be the next great thing from the East St. Louis area. At age 14 years old he already had offers from Missouri and Illinois.

“I do everything for him,” Williams said. “He gave it everything he got, so I have to give everything I got for him. He would do that for me.”

Williams made his mark in his professional football debut with six catches for a league-high 123 yards in the Vipers’ season-opening 23-3 loss Sunday at New York. He will get another chance Saturday when the Vipers play at the Seattle Dragons in a 5 p.m. ET game on FOX.

“I just want to be great. I want to dominate,” he said. “If you dominate anything, people are going to recognize you. In order to make history, you have to do historical things, so I just want to be remembered forever.“

Williams joined the New York Jets as an undrafted free agent out of Jackson State in 2017. He didn’t make the Jets or catch on in auditions with Washington and Cleveland, but Williams remains Jackson State’s career receiving leader for catches, yards and touchdowns.

“It really has translated,” Vipers head coach Marc Trestman said. “Winning on the edges, winning down the middle, making plays and having real strong hands. He’s shown up every day in practice and it showed up during the game.”

Williams’ goals include making another run at the NFL.

“God has a plan for everybody,” he said, “but I just want to be the best. I’ve wanted to be the best since I was 5 years old coming from East St. Louis, coming from tough times ... seeing where I’m at now and where I’m supposed to be. I’m just happy to be here.”

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari

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