When asking athletes – especially those with the ability to score touchdowns – about what improvements they would like to make, their answer usually revolves around, well, scoring more touchdowns. However, Cougar running back Jamaal Williams has gained a different perspective of what it means to end the season on a high note, and it all stems from a single play that occurred at the end of the San Jose State game.
“I think what I mostly want to do is I want to block every person I get,” Williams said. “And when I do, I want to punish him because I feel like from the last game I want to improve just a little bit more. And I think this is my chance to show just that I can block more and be a better blocker than just a better runner and catcher. I believe I can be more physical than I am now, so mostly coming into this last game I want to be in there blocking instead of running and getting touchdowns. I want to be the reason why other people get their touchdowns.”
Late in the San Jose State game, BYU was down 20-14 and had just recovered an onside kick on the Cougars’ 46-yard line. After Riley Nelson completed a pass to Ross Apo to the 21-yard line for a first down, San Jose State linebacker Keith Smith blitzed on the next play. Williams went to block Smith, but Smith jumped over the low block. The result was a sack on Nelson and a lost fumble. End of game.
“Yeah, yup it’s still in my mind,” said a somber Williams, still clearly affected by the outcome of that play. “The coaches help me a lot to not let it affect me for this next game, but to learn from it and try to improve from where I am now for the future.”
Running the ball has never been much of an issue for the true freshman. As the season has worn on, Williams has also added catching the ball to his repertoire of skills. But the third pillar of being an effective running back at BYU is pass protection. It’s a skill that takes some time to hone.
“Mostly, I learned the blocking schemes now, and I know them enough to where I can go out there and do my own thing blocking-wise as part of my skills,” said Williams. “I’m not going to give up cut blocking. Cut blocking is still going to be one of my major ones, but I’m going to use them when it’s time to use them. When I feel like I can go head up, then I’m going to go head up, which is about 85 percent of the time.”
Williams has put a lot of time into honing his blocking skills.
“I mostly get one of the blocking bags and when they come at me I have to give them a real good push from where I’m at,” Williams said. “I have to have a good base stance. I’m learning to have more of a base stance than a wide receiver type stance, so I’m learning to get a little more base and use my legs more for power instead of just trying to get in the way.”
Williams takes it very personal – as was evident in his body language – when he sees the results of not performing a block well.
“I don’t like to see my quarterback on the ground, even if it isn’t my fault. I just feel like I need to block more just to help him out, and I feel like I just need to improve better if I’m going to make my true goal, which is the NFL. If I want to make it there, I have to be a better blocker than I am now.”
So as the Cougars get set to face New Mexico State to close out the regular season, Williams wants to put his newfound focus on blocking to the test. But he also wants to achieve more.
“Probably just get a touchdown in these two last games mostly,” said Williams with a smile. “I’m tied with somebody for touchdowns as a freshman. They said I’m tied for third with Harvey [Unga] for freshman touchdowns. Hopefully I can break it and get to second.”
So far on the season, Williams has scored 12 touchdowns and leads the team in total points (72).
Following the season, Williams wants to physically prepare himself so he can be in a better position to take the next milestone of his BYU football career.
“Probably get a little bit bigger than what I am,” Williams said with a chuckle. “I want to get over 205, maybe. I’m like 198.”
Do teammates kid and tease him about his size despite his accomplishments?
“Nope, because the pads make me look big – the pads and the small bands,” Williams said jokingly. “That’s why I wear so many. And tattoos, they make me look big but I’m not, so it’s just a little disguise that I use. When I get to that 215, I’ll feel good about myself. Then I’ll be able to run people over and stuff.”
One thing is certain despite the final outcome of this season: when it comes to next year, Cougar fans have a lot to look forward to thanks to Williams, who should be focused and ready to take on the 2013 schedule.