PROVO — This is what all-time leading rushers do.
Jamaal Williams might have been an NFL fourth-round draft pick last spring, but until somebody surpasses his record at BYU, he remains the school’s all-time leading rusher.
Now at Green Bay, Williams has received little playing time this season, but he delivered big time when needed Sunday in a 23-16 victory over the Chicago Bears.
Williams, who injured his knee earlier this season against Chicago, had been recovering as starter Ty Montgomery (ribs) was also recovering and No. 2 running back Aaron Jones became the guy.
But when both Montgomery and Jones got hurt, the Packers turned to Williams to carry the load as an every-down back.
Williams didn’t break any big runs. He didn’t pull away from anybody and go streaking down the turf for a touchdown like he did at Michigan State a year ago.
What he did do was get tough yards. He hit holes with force, pushed the pile, moved the chains, kept drives alive and did the simple dirty work most backs have to do in order for an offense to work.
And those are traits you want in a running back.
Williams’ acumen is found not only in his body, strength and skills but also in his attitude. Since the day he walked on BYU’s practice field as a 17-year-old from Fontana, California, he’s carried himself as a winner.
Williams has always been a passionate, high-energy player. He fights for yards. His enthusiasm and love for the game spill over to his teammates. This was evident even when he made a cameo sideline appearance three weeks ago for a BYU home game against San Jose State. His presence was felt and appreciated by a somber offense who’d faced a lot of ugly during a seven-game losing streak.
Is it possible his karma helped produce a win that day? Maybe.
BYU running back coach Reno Mahe and offensive coordinator Ty Detmer can look at film of Williams his senior year and really appreciate what he meant to them the first year they were on the job.
Boy, was the job a lot easier.
On Sunday against the Bears, Williams had a long run of just 7 yards. But he consistently took a play that was going nowhere and pounded his body into tacklers until it became something.
When the Packers took a 26-6 lead on a Mason Crosby 50-yard field goal, Williams packed the ball six times for 17 yards. But reporters covering the game said 14 of those yards came after contact, and he also hauled in a pass for 8 yards. His 4-yard run on a fourth-down conversion kept the offense in field-goal range.
Williams had a pair of 6-yard runs on the next Packer possession that enabled the offense to get in position for a Brett Hundley to Davante Adams 19-yard touchdown pass, giving Green Bay a 23-13 lead.
On the field again after that score, Williams had five carries for 19 yards, 16 of which came after he’d been hit. Breaking tackles, plowing ahead, he turned a 2-yard loss behind the line of scrimmage into a gain of 4, running over a linebacker and cornerback.
“Shoot, I didn’t even remember their numbers,” Williams told reporters afterward.
“I was trying to get the first down. It felt good. Man, it just felt good to run through somebody one time. I really love running through (defenders) and letting them know, ‘That’s what you’re going to get from me every time I get the ball. I’m coming at you.’ No soft runs. That’s what I need defenders to know. I’ve got respect for running how I always run and that’s the only way I know how to run is running hard, running with passion and running with a mean streak.”
On Sunday, Williams was given an opportunity and made the most of it.
That is what football is all about.
That is the attitude the Cougars’ all-time leading rusher left as his legacy in Provo.
There’s a reason he stands atop the list.