SAN DIEGO >> Mike Williams wore No. 7 at Lake Marion High in South Carolina, where he became a four-star recruit. He wore No. 7 at Clemson, where he became a national champion. And he is currently wearing No. 7 for the Chargers, donning it Friday for the start of rookie mini-camp.
He has about three months to find a new number.
The college-to-pro journey comes with all types of speed bumps. And for Williams, one of them is leaving behind a familiar jersey.
The NFL allows receivers to wear only numbers 10-19 or 80-89 during the regular season. The Chargers’ first-round pick has already sworn off the latter grouping — even though Randy Moss’ No. 84 was the first number he wore in youth football.
But Nos. 14 and 19 are retired in honor of Dan Fouts and Lance Alworth, respectively, and longtime equipment manager Bob Wick tries to keep No. 18 (Charlie Joiner) out of circulation. Everything else in the 10-19 range is currently in use. Williams said he may wait until after training camp to see if anything opens up.
The rest of his transition appears to be going smoothly. After Friday’s morning practice, Coach Anthony Lynn said Williams looked as good as he did on film — making contested catches and batting down an underthrown pass.
The next step is building chemistry with veteran quarterback Philip Rivers, who isn’t shy about throwing into tight windows.
“He’ll take chances.” Williams said of the six-time Pro Bowler. “I like quarterbacks like that. … He feels like his receivers will go up and make the play.”
Through this weekend, though, the rookies will lean mostly on each other. Most have had only limited contact with veterans, with communication reserved to texts or small talk. But that doesn’t mean they’re not busy learning. On Thursday night, the Chargers handed each of them a thick binder full of plays. So, offensive linemen Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney — drafted in the second and third round, respectively — took advantage of their current living situation as hotel roommates, using each other as sounding boards.
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“That’s one of the best ways to study,” Feeney said. “Say it out loud, talking in your own kind of language — and then you’re like, ‘Oh yeah, that makes more sense.’ When you say it yourself, it just clicks differently.”
Both are adjusting to new positions. Lamp was a starting left tackle at Western Kentucky, but practiced on Friday at right guard. Feeney took reps at both left guard and center; at Indiana, he had never snapped the ball in a game. They’re eager to take on the challenge, especially after the post-draft whirlwind of media interviews and cross-country flights.
“Everybody had a little bit of nerves and jitters,” Lamp said. “We haven’t played football in four or five months, some of us. It was a little bit nerve-wracking.”
“It’s just crazy,” Feeney added. “I can’t really describe it. It’s just this awesome feeling of, ‘Wow, you’re here, but you’ve still got a long way to go.’”
One of the Chargers’ biggest needs this offseason lay in the defensive backfield — a position they didn’t supplement until the third day of the draft.
On Friday, they added more depth via free agency, agreeing to terms with former Panthers safety Tre Boston. A former fourth-round pick in 2014, he started 10 games last season in Carolina, notching two sacks, two interceptions, and seven passes defensed.
The 24-year-old had visited the Chargers this past weekend, and could push for a significant role on depth chart topped by Jahleel Addae — re-signed earlier this year on a four-year, $22 million contract — and veteran Dwight Lowery, who turned 31 in January.
Boston had also considered joining the Steelers and the Bills. New Buffalo coach Sean McDermott previously served as the Panthers’ defensive coordinator.