GREEN BAY – Jamaal Williams has never forgotten where he came from and the road he’s traveled in his football career.
Five years ago, the future Packers running back was lightly recruited out of Summitt High School in Fontana, Calif., other than one significant offer from Brigham Young University.
Although Williams isn’t Mormon, he felt it was his only serious opportunity to keep playing the game he loved, so he accepted the Cougars’ offer and took his talents to Provo, Utah.
While there were ups and downs along the way, the 6-foot, 211-pound running back finished his college career as BYU’s all-time leading rusher and ultimately became a fourth-round pick (No. 134 overall) of the Packers.
“Oh man, I’m just excited, ready to go and ready to be a Packer,” Williams said. “I’ve never been so excited in my life. Just to have my family here to support me, too, is something that really keeps me going and ready to play.”
A four-year starter, Williams left BYU in 2015 after an honor-code violation he says stemmed from having a girl in his room. He understood the rules when he enrolled on campus and accepted the penalty of having to sit out a season.
Williams could have bolted for another school but remained loyal to his commitment and never considered transferring.
“I was angry but at the same time you have to know it’s your responsibility,” Williams said. “You made the choice of going to the school. They tell you the rules when you get there.”
Williams said prospective teams asked him about not playing in 2015 with many coaches and scouts telling him “it wasn’t a big deal.”
In fact, his decision to stay at BYU despite the incident is something that impressed the Packers’ scouting department during the pre-draft process.
“We feel really good about the player and the person,” Packers director of college scouting Jon-Eric Sullivan said.
“The fact he came back there, I think that tells you his intestinal fortitude and what he’s made up of. It probably would’ve been easier to leave at one point and start off anew, but he came back and chose to do that. I think that says something about the kid and something we thought was an asset to his character.”
Williams trained in Scottsdale, Ariz., during his layoff. Taking a page of his childhood idol, Walter Payton, Williams would run hills to improve his cardio and strength for his senior year.
He still watched BYU every Saturday, offering supportive text messages to his teammates. After returning, Williams showed few signs of rust in rushing for 1,375 yards and 12 touchdowns during his senior year.
Williams, whose 137.5 rushing yards per game as a senior were the fifth-most in the FBS, finished his career with a program-best 3,901 rushing yards.
“It was more excitement than anything,” Williams said. “The first game was a comeback game for me to get back in the emotions of everything. I feel like I did a great job my last year, but I can still improve on things.”
Williams playfully admitted he should have room to add more weight to his frame now that he won’t be as reliant on the typical college food regimen of Ramen noodles and oatmeal.
A self-proclaimed “old-style back,” Williams enjoys being a bruising runner who gets better as the game wears on. The Packers feel he’ll respond well to the elements in Green Bay and complement the current stable of running backs well.
“I feel I could be a workhorse,” Williams said. “I know I still have to take care of my body and do what I can to make sure I’m healthy going into every game and can help my team.”
2017 DRAFT TRACKER