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Williams focused on being a leader, embracing the BYU experience

Published: Monday, Aug. 11 2014 3:35 p.m. MDT

Jamaal Williams poses for a photo at BYU in Provo on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. (Kristin Murphy, Kristin Murphy) Jamaal Williams poses for a photo at BYU in Provo on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. (Kristin Murphy, Kristin Murphy)

PROVO — Although he won’t be able to play in the season-opener at UConn on Aug. 29 due to a suspension, BYU junior running back Jamaal Williams has remained upbeat and positive during fall camp and is focused on being a leader.

“As far as on the field, he hasn’t changed. He’s the same Jamaal,” said Cougar running back Algernon Brown. “He gets things going. He’ll be the guy on the offensive side to get everyone riled up and excited to play.”

On the first day of fall camp, Williams told the media about his one-game suspension because of an honor code violation, adding that, despite mistakes he’s made, he is embracing the BYU experience.

“I’m trying to be a positive role model now, showing (teammates) how to live the right way at BYU and have fun and have a great time playing BYU football,” said Williams, who started his career in Provo at the age of 17. “I’m going to do these two years right. The first two years were a whole bunch of rebel stages and not knowing the right way of coming in here and enjoying BYU life. But these next two years are going to be pretty exciting for me.”

Running backs coach Mark Atuaia is impressed with Williams’ development.

“That young man has grown exponentially since he’s been here. More so off the field than on the field,”Atuaia said. “I’m proud of him. He’s still young. He’s growing. Ten years from now will be the telling detail about this experience for him. I hope he hugs me and says, ‘Thank you for the lessons I learned and experiences I had at BYU.’ We’re well on our way with him to do that on the football field and also in life, because the totality is what we’re about here. I’m grateful we have the chance to coach Jamaal.”

Quarterback Taysom Hill loves playing in the same backfield with Williams.

“He’s one of my favorite players to play with on the team,” Hill said. “As you watch the games last year, you could see why. Offensively, we might not be moving the ball, and energy levels are down. Next thing you know, Jamaal breaks three or four tackles and rejuvenates the team. That’s one of my favorite things about Jamaal. His spirit and energy are so contagious.”

Williams enters his junior year needing 1,448 rushing yards to break Harvey Unga’s school record for career rushing yards — 3,455. Williams enters his junior season with 2,008 yards, which is No. 10 on the Cougars’ all-time rushing list. He ran for 1,233 yards last season.

On media day in June, offensive coordinator Robert Anae predicted that Williams would break Unga’s career rushing record this season.

At the time Williams talked about his suspension, he said breaking the record takes a backseat to doing what he can to help his team win.

When asked about the record in June, Williams said he was thinking about it “all the time. From my freshman year when (the BYU coaches) were recruiting me, watching Harvey’s highlights on YouTube, I wanted to be in there. Harvey’s the man. He texts me all the time, and asks me how I’m doing. I think he’d enjoy it if I broke his record. To know that a running back that was here who has the record would be proud of you for breaking his record, that’s a tremendous thing to have. If I do it, that would really go to the heart. I would like that. My mom would like it. Harvey would like it. Coach Anae would like it because it would make him look right. I would love to get that record.”

Reflecting on his time at BYU, Williams said, “I’ve calmed down. I’m not as hyper as I used to be. I’m turning into a grown man. I’ve got to pay bills now and stuff like that. It’s just a learning experience to come in at 17, while I’m still supposed to be in high school. Now I’m 19 and I feel like I’ve grown from 17 to 24 and I’m still only 19. I’m not even legal yet. I may graduate before I’m 21. Probably. It might look extraordinary to everybody else because of how young I am, but it feels normal to me, like this is how college is supposed to be.”

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company