It was the first game of the season. Standing in the tunnel was Jamaal Williams, who suspected that he might get some playing time in the first game of the season. So what was he thinking prior to running out of the tunnel?
“I was just excited, really,” Williams said. “I was mostly worried about not falling coming out. I didn’t want to be the one known as, ‘Aw, he fell coming out the tunnel,’ so I was just going out there with a lot of excitement.”
Well, Williams made it safely out of the tunnel. First goal completed.
“When I ran out of the tunnel I was excited,” Williams said. “I ran out jumping all up and down. I wasn’t even playing but I was excited on the sidelines. I never had so many people in my life, like, not even at my championship game in high school. It was like one section of the stadium. When I saw all those people out there I was just smiling and just had a great time out there.”
As BYU was able to pull away with a lead over Washington State, the BYU coaches gave some of their younger players a chance to play. Williams’ number was called.
“I was worried about not fumbling, doing my job and getting positive yards,” said Williams. “If I can get positive yards on my first carry, I’m good. I mostly go by my first yards. If I can get positive yards on my first carry, I’m set and usually play great for me.”
So how does he feel he did?
“It was pretty good,” Williams said. “I know I made a little more mistakes because it was my first game and everything, but I did more positive things than negative things. They were just minor negative things though, so I think I did really good for it being my first game.”
Having faced BYU’s defense in practice, Williams felt he was well prepared.
“You just have to keep going with the same momentum of just trying to get better. You know, people are faster and stronger than in high school, so it’s a good way to prepare for a game when you play against one of the best defenses in college football,” said Williams. “It was much easier when I went out there [against Washington State] and more natural and everything. I got used to it really easy.”
But he didn’t think he would get as many reps as he did.
“It was a little bit of a surprise in the beginning, but then at the end I knew it was going to come because we were blowing them out a little bit,” Williams said. “So, I knew I was going to get a slight chance to play, but the good thing is I’m on special teams. So I play special teams too to get used to the speed of the game, so when I came out my first time on offense it was a little more natural.
“I knew they were going to call me once in a while. I was waiting, but I was occupied on special teams and everything, but I was just waiting on offense. When they did I just went out there with the mentality that I just have to do my best because I know Washington State, even though they were down, they would still play hard. I just gotta go out there and play my best.”
Running back coach Joe DuPaix spoke to Williams about his first-game performance afterwards.
“He said I did pretty good for it being my first game and all, for my first time playing,” Williams said. “He just said that I need to keep working hard and keep going downhill and just don’t dwell on the things you do negative all the time. Just keep on playing football and keep going.”
Having jumped in with both feet against Washington State, is there a chance Williams could get more playing time against Weber State?
“Yeah, it’s possible, it’s possible,” said Williams. “I just have to keep working hard and show [the coaches] that I deserve more playing time as we keep going along the season. I just have to keep working hard at it.”
In fact, Williams feels he’ll see more playing time throughout the season. Naturally, he is hoping the coaches don’t redshirt him.
“Of course, of course,” Williams said with a smile. “No matter what, I might be 17 but I have a heart of a 25-year-old.”
So what’s it been like being away from home and in college?
“It’s okay right now. Even though I’m 17, it’s usual,” Williams said. “I mostly just stay [home] doing my homework and practicing my plays mostly in my room all the time, but when I come out most people are friendly, asking me if I want to play basketball and something like that.”
But just because he’s away from home doesn’t mean he doesn’t get some motherly attention.
“I still have my mom and she comes to every game,” said Williams with a smile. “So she stops by my dorm and cleans my room for me. I’m still not used to cleaning, so I try. But she comes by and cleans it up for me a little bit. That’s why I love her.”
Back when Williams was playing high school football at Summit, his mother was known for her loud support for her son. Apparently, she hasn’t lost her cheering touch despite LaVell Edwards Stadium being much larger and much louder.
“She saw me play,” Williams said. “She was in the stadium and, I don’t know how, but everyone can still hear her cheering. People definitely heard her in high school and can now hear her in that stadium. People were like, ‘Was that your mom screaming out there?’ So people call her ‘Momma Williams.’ She’s proud of me and gave me a big hug afterwards and everything.”
Williams is currently rooming with Dylan Collie. The two became very close during the recruiting period, and that relationship continues now that the two are together at BYU.
“Yeah, he mostly helped me to come here, to commit here at BYU,” said Williams. “He’s a great [inspiration] and he motivated me a lot, so I mostly look up to him too.”
However, Collie isn’t the only one that has taken Williams under his wing. Williams also gave credit to other teammates such as Kyle Van Noy, Joe Sampson, Ross Apo, Cody Hoffman, Michael Alisa and David Foote.
Although Williams has only been at BYU for a short time, his experience is exceeding all his expectations.
“It exceeded more than I expected,” Williams said. “I’m still not used to asking for things, and they give it to you, like towels and cleats and stuff. So, I mostly keep things they gave me the first time. They would all be telling me, ‘Hey, go change your shoes,’ and I would be like, ‘You can do that? Oh!’ Then I get everything. I’m just getting used to the generosity and all the availability of the items that I can. I don’t have to go out and buy stuff anymore. My experience here has exceeded all of my expectations so far. It’s been good.”