Tyler Williams was part of a Super Bowl-winning organization last year. Now he is using his exercise science degree to help a new team reach their peak potential.
It is a relatively small club of people who can claim the title of “world champion,” and Tyler Williams (’06) is one of the few. He joined the ranks in February when the Rams, an organization he has been affiliated with professionally for almost 20 years, hoisted the Lombardi Trophy. As the team’s director of sports science, the achievement was the product of a highly focused career.
“My whole life has been involved with sports and activity,” he said. “I always had a passion for understanding how the body functions and trying to understand the puzzle of what could be done to reduce injury risk and also gain a competitive advantage.”
Williams came to Truman because he saw a well-respected school that could help him reach his goals. The athletic training program offered hands-on experiences and talented instructors that supported the students.
“The Health and Exercise Science Department was impressive in their process of operation, structure and faculty,” he said. “There was a passion for the industry that was unmatched from my visits with other universities.”
As a student, Williams was encouraged to pursue internship opportunities. Following his passion, he sent his resume to all 32 NFL organizations, eventually landing a position with the St. Louis Rams, just up the road from his hometown of Crystal City, Missouri. Williams worked summer internships with the club for three years, followed by three yearlong internships while he completed a master’s degree from California University of Pennsylvania. In 2010 he joined the team full-time as an athletic trainer for four years. He would go on to serve as the team’s sports science coordinator/manager for three years before taking on the role of director of sports science in 2019.
The NFL’s regular season may run 18 weeks, but that does not mean Williams spends the rest of the year on the golf course. Along with getting players ready for the weekly demands of a physically grueling game, he and his fellow trainers: coordinate post-season surgeries and rehabs; attend the annual NFL combine to medically assess and evaluate potential draft picks; and participate in numerous meetings to understand research on topics such as helmet testing, biomechanical assessments, performance assessments, internal medical injuries and orthopedic injuries all designed with an eye toward developing new safety protocols.
“The essence of an athletic trainer is really being a caregiver,” Williams said. “The biggest misconception is that we work the games and practices during the season and then have time off in the off season.”
In the best of circumstances, being responsible for the health and wellness of an NFL roster is challenging. Adding a pandemic on top did not make things any easier.
“Everything became individualized and spaced out in a world of group settings and tight spaces in athletics, which created hurdles on top of the everyday workload,” Williams said. “We had to think outside the box from what was traditionally done and become problem solvers in order to maintain efficient and effective training methods for our athletes.”
Williams gained some experience in dealing with disruptive events several years before the pandemic hit. Following the 2015 season, the Rams relocated from St. Louis to Los Angeles. Along with coaches and players, staff members had a decision to make. Williams chose to take the 1,800-mile trip west, not just because he loved his job or needed a paycheck.
“Being from the Midwest it was difficult to take that leap, but our vice president of sports medicine and performance, Reggie Scott, is an industry leader in sports medicine,” he said. “It made for an easier move knowing I could continue to develop under him.”
Along with his own professional development, Williams saw his athletes reach their full potential on the field. The Rams went to the Super Bowl in 2019 and won it 2022.
“It was an absolutely phenomenal experience,” he said. “Going through it, you really realize how many things have to go right and how important it is to work with amazing people. The entire organization has to be working in lockstep in the same direction, not just the players and coaches, but the medical staff, strength staff, sports science, nutrition, front office, equipment and operations.”
Williams ended his time with the Rams on the highest of notes. Following the season, he took a job with the Minnesota Vikings as the executive director of player health and safety. The change gets him a little closer to his Midwestern roots, and he is excited to work with new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell.
“I have always tried to go where I am led. The Vikings are an amazing organization with phenomenal ownership that prioritizes their people and the care of their athletes,” Williams said. “The opportunity to work with people like that and build something together is what drew me to Minnesota – the people.”