If you think you know the Saints newest running back in Jamaal Williams, you'd be wrong. That's what he knows.
The 2022 NFL leader in rushing TDs will make it clear that's the case, even as he showcases the personality that has led to many a viral moment over the past few seasons. He arrived for his first press conference after signing his contract wearing a Pokemon hat and was ready to quiz reporters to see if they knew which it was (for the record, it was an Eevee).
Before a question was even asked, he pointed to NOLA.com reporter Luke Johnson and got a moment of laughter out of the Guy Fawkes-esque facial hair he was sporting. That's just the type of guy Jamaal Williams is. The only thing you can be sure of is you're not sure where things might go next.
"I think I bring a lot of emotion," Williams said. "I think I bring a lot of, just 100% love and grit and just being a warrior, and just being myself."
It's his abilities on the field, though, that Williams will insist no one really knows the full extent of. Is he a short-yardage assassin? Absolutely. But he's got a set of wheels, too, and he's eager to showcase it in the Saints backfield to follow up the first 1,000-yard season of his career.
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The 27-year-old is also ready to embrace the city, though he's still working on the correct pronunciation of beignets -- and he's a bit creeped out by the idea of crawfish still in the shell. It's a process, but he's excited to get started.
"I'm just grateful to be at a place with the Saints that they wanted me for me," Williams told WWL. "They know what I can do, and at the same time I'm going to bring more here than they know what I can do. What they think my capacity is and what I can do, they have no idea. That's why I keep things personal."
He's a chip-on-the-shoulder type guy, and he hasn't lost that even as he broke Barry Sanders' franchise record with 17 rushing TDs with the Lions last season. Disrespect? That doesn't slide. He'll use it as motivation.
Some of that disrespect, at least as Williams sees it, was sent his way by the same Lions team he helped climb just to the edge of the playoff field a year ago, a steep turnaround from a 3-13-1 record the prior year.
Detroit offered him a deal to stay, Williams said, but it wasn't a serious offer, in his opinion. When his agent called with the Saints' offer of 3 years, $12 million, Williams jumped at the opportunity. The Lions, meanwhile, agreed to a 3-year, $18 million contract with former Bears RB David Montgomery. Williams said he never received that type of offer. He loved the organization and his teammates, but it was time to move on.
"[The Lions] offered me less than [the Montgomery deal]. It was just like, 'wow, OK. That's crazy.' It's the business, but this is what y'all think? All right," Williams told WWL. "So after that was done, then my mind was already set on, I'm gonna go somewhere else new. Like, I'm not gonna deal with people who want to devalue me for what they think they know me for, and what I've brought to the team and what I do for the team."
The next step is to see how Williams can assimilate into a New Orleans locker room that's filled with a cast of characters all its own, and if he can help elevate a team that's also had a pair of near playoff misses over the past two years back into the postseason.
If he can do that, we'll learn a lot more about exactly what Williams can do in the process. And one thing we can all say for sure: You'll notice him while it's happening.