SAN DIEGO -- At the end of a hot practice during rookie minicamp last week, running back Kerwynn Williams stayed after practice to catch punts.
The Utah State product is part of a crowded group that will compete for a return job with the San Diego Chargers this season.
The Chargers struggled in the return game last season, averaging 7.5 yards per punt return (No. 25 in the NFL) and 22.1 yards per kick return (No. 23). So improving the return game is a point of emphasis this season.
“It’s always a work in progress,” Williams said. “I did a lot of that in college, but you can never be perfect at catching punts and kicks. It’s always good to get a little extra work in.”
Selected in the seventh round of the 2013 draft by the Indianapolis Colts, Williams was released by the team last October and added to San Diego’s practice squad, spending the rest of last season with the Chargers.
Williams signed a futures contract with San Diego in January.
And while he never appeared on the active roster, Williams used that time wisely, learning the offense and picking the brains of more experienced running backs like Danny Woodhead, Ryan Mathews and Ronnie Brown.
“I think it helped a lot, being inside the meeting rooms with the guys I’m here with,” Williams said. “I learned a lot from Danny, Ryan and Ronnie last year.
“You just make a conscious effort every day to try and get better at your craft. You want to try and perfect the offense as good as possible, and you just want to be able to compete when you get on the field. And you can’t do that if you don’t know the offense.”
At 5-foot-8 and 198 pounds, Williams is built more in the mold of Woodhead. Williams ran a 4.48-second 40-yard time at the scouting combine, so he has the speed and elusiveness to get outside and make plays in the passing game.
Williams, 22, also showed flashes in college of being a successful returner in the NFL. He finished with 3,408 kick return yards, including one for a touchdown, for the Aggies. Williams also averaged 12.3 yards per punt return at Utah State.
As the lead back in his senior year, Williams totaled 218 carries for 1,512 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also caught 45 passes for 697 yards and another five scores.
But Williams said he’s not picky when it comes to earning a role on the team.
“I feel like I’m whatever the team needs me to be,” he said. “Whatever it takes, whether it’s special teams or on offense, I just want to go out there and contribute to the team’s success.”