- Associated Press - Sunday, October 23, 2011

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Torrey Smith knew he would be drafted. It was only a matter of when and which team would pick the speedy wide receiver.

His teammate at the University of Maryland, LaQuan Williams, also a receiver, wasn’t so sure. Before the 2011 NFL draft, the two friends would work out, play pickup basketball together and converse about the ongoing labor dispute and what it meant for them.

Williams was worried about his future as a professional football player, his lifelong dream. Doubts crept into his mind.

The draft came and went. Smith was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the second round. Williams’ name went unannounced. Then the lockout persisted, keeping Williams from having the option of signing as an undrafted free agent with an NFL team. The longer the lockout lasted, the more Williams worried about whether he’d have a chance to make an NFL roster in 2011.

But one person never gave up faith in Williams. His friend, Torrey.

Torrey was one of the guys that was keeping my hopes up, keeping me focused,” Williams said. “He was telling me to keep working out and that I would get my shot. He was there standing in my corner, keeping me positive.”

Different paths, same destination

Smith exploded to the tune of 1,055 yards and 12 touchdowns during his redshirt junior season at Maryland.

A few draft analysts ranked Smith the third-best wideout in the 2011 draft, behind A.J. Green and Julio Jones. On draft day, the Ravens selected Smith with the 58th overall pick in the second round. He was the fifth receiver selected behind Green (Cincinnati), Jones (Atlanta), Jonathan Baldwin (Kansas City) and Titus Young (Detroit).

It was a great position for the rookie as he had veteran wideouts Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason to learn from during off-site workouts during the lockout. While being away from team facilities was frustrating for all rookies, Smith at least knew he had a job when players were eventually able to report to camp.

Williams wasn’t as fortunate. His collegiate career at Maryland began with promise. He was named to the Sporting News’ ACC all-freshman team after catching 15 passes for 217 yards as a redshirt freshman in 2007. But a foot injury sidelined him for the majority of 2008. In 2009, Williams caught only 10 passes for 99 yards but did score his first career touchdown. In his final season, Williams caught just six passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns.

So when the lockout came, Williams was nervous. While he waited, Williams held a part-time job at a Sherwin-Williams store in Washington and considered joining the military so he could provide for his girlfriend and baby daughter.

Little did Williams know that someone had taken notice of his film. Ravens assistant special teams coach Marwan Maalouf saw a tape of his special teams play during his senior season at Maryland, where Williams totaled 12 special teams tackles, two blocked punts, and a forced fumble. Maalouf then talked with Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg about bringing Williams in. Rosburg liked what he saw and decided Williams would be worth the invite.

“Any time you’re looking at college receivers, you want to see how they play at receiver,” Rosburg said. “LaQuan didn’t get a lot of exposure that way. But we did see him at special teams and we found his reps at special teams, which are sometimes not easy to find. He showed us some qualities and thought not only he could be a good special teams player but showed qualities that we thought he could be a good receiver.”

When free agency resumed after the lockout ended, Williams received one offer - from the Ravens. Smith said he and Williams talked about the possibility of the two playing together in Baltimore. For it to come to fruition made it better.

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