Tyrell Williams wears Ryan Leaf's old number; bad luck not a concern

Undrafted receiver Tyrell Williams chose the No. 16 for his number after wearing No. 6 in the preseason. Lenny Ignelzi/AP

SAN DIEGO -- Tyrell Williams grew up in the Pacific Northwest, so he’s familiar with the history Washington State University product Ryan Leaf left with the San Diego Chargers.

Still, the undrafted rookie free agent receiver from Western Oregon chose the No. 16 for his new number after wearing No. 6 during exhibition play.

"You know about him," said Williams, who was 8 years old when Leaf last played for the Chargers. "You know about the bad luck, or whatever you want to call it. But I don’t really think too much about it. It’s not that big of a deal to me."

According to NFL rules, receivers can’t wear single-digit numbers. Williams said he wasn’t interested in a traditional wide receiver number in the 80s.

Williams wore No. 18 for the Wolves in college, but that number was worn by Hall of Famer Charlie Joiner. And with Dan Fouts' No. 14 and Lance Alworth's No. 19 retired, the only number in the teens available was No. 16, Leaf’s old number.

Only three players have worn the No. 16 since Leaf left the team in 2000 -- kicker Dave Rayner (2007), receiver Gary Banks (2010) and receiver Seyi Ajirotutu for the past two seasons before signing with the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency.

Selected with the second overall in the 1998 draft as San Diego’s franchise quarterback, Leaf is considered one of the biggest draft failures in NFL history. He played three mostly uninspired seasons for the Chargers and was released by San Diego in 2000.

After a stint with the Dallas Cowboys in 2001 and a tryout with the Seattle Seahawks the following year, Leaf retired from football in 2002.

Starting in 2008, Leaf spent time in and out of jail because of issues fueled by an addiction to pain killers. The Montana native remains on probation after being released from prison on Dec. 3 of last year following his 2012 conviction on burglary and drug charges.

Williams says he’s not concerned bad luck will follow him by wearing Leaf’s old number. He believes the player makes the number, not the other way around.

"That doesn’t really bother me at all," Williams said. "I’m a little superstitious. But I have my own superstitions that don’t have to do with anyone else."