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Just like his mom: Mother Nicolle has molded BYU's Jamaal Williams into the person he is

Published: Thursday, Oct. 10 2013 6:10 p.m. MDT

PROVO — If you think BYU running back Jamaal Williams is tough, you should meet his mother.

Nicolle (her maiden name is Thompson) was a sprinter at UCLA and competed in the NCAA track and field championships. She works as a Riverside County sheriff in California. She tore the MCL and ACL in her knee while going through the sheriff’s academy. She rides motorcycles.

When she saw her son on his back, motionless, on the turf at LaVell Edwards Stadium during the Cougars’ loss to Utah last month, her maternal instincts kicked into high gear.

“As a mother, it was breathtaking to me,” Nicolle recalled. “I was concerned that he would be all right. I know football is physical. He’s been hurt before. Normally, he bounces back up. I just thought positive thoughts and started praying. I hoped that whatever the outcome, he would be OK and be able to live a normal life after football. That was my main concern.”

Jamaal, meanwhile, was thinking about his mom.

“The one thing that was on my mind while I was on my back was, ‘Is my mom OK?’” he said. “Personally, I felt like I let her down for getting hurt.”

Williams had put his head down and surged through the line on a third-down play and got a first down against the Utes. But his helmet slammed violently into the ground as a pile of humanity settled on top of him.

Nicolle noticed Jamaal wasn’t moving. Worried, she hopped down from the stands and onto the field, trying to gauge the reactions of doctors and trainers that were attending to her son.

“When they got the board,” Nicolle said, “that’s when I knew something was seriously wrong, and I walked out there on the field.”

While the 64,000 fans at Edwards Stadium sat in eerie silence, Jamaal was strapped to a backboard to secure his neck, then carted off the field.

What comforted him at that time of anxiety was the sound of his mother’s voice.

“When they put him on the cart,” Nicolle said, “he told me, ‘Mom, I’m OK.’ That’s when I knew that he’d be OK. Jamaal’s like, ‘You don’t cry when I score a touchdown, so you can’t cry if I get hurt.’ It’s funny, because he was uplifting me when I should have been uplifting him. But that’s Jamaal.”

As it turned out, Williams suffered a concussion and shoulder stinger. He missed only one game before rushing 14 times for 79 yards in BYU’s victory at Utah State in his return last Friday.

Jamaal dedicated that performance to his mom.

“When I came back,” he said, “I felt like I was playing for her, to show her that I was going to be ready and be the same Jamaal.”

Williams’ workload should be increased Saturday (5 p.m., ESPNU) when the Cougars host Georgia Tech. Williams scored a career-high four touchdowns last season in a resounding 41-17 win over the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta.

Saturday marks Williams’ first home game since that frightening injury on Sept. 21.

That night, he was transported to the hospital. While there, he demanded his iPad because he wanted to watch the play in which he was injured.

“I did get the first down,” he told his mom.

After being released from the hospital Sunday, he slept most of the day.

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