Former Detroit Lions running back Jamaal Williams is quickly becoming a cultural icon. Known for his amazing abilities on the gridiron and knowledge in the world of anime, Williams doesn't need a super skill set to achieve superstar levels of success.
The running back gave himself the title of "First Swagg Kazekage" in July 2022. For Williams, his fun approach to life doesn't take away from his abilities in the game. The former BYU Cougar channeled his inner swagger when he and the Lions took on the Green Bay Packers in the season finale on Sunday Night Football in January. Making reference to the popular animated series Naruto, the "leader of the Hidden Village of the Den" rushed for 72 yards in just 16 attempts, scoring two touchdowns to help Detroit eliminate Green Bay from the playoffs.
Jamaal Williams is Making Football Fun Again
During the game, Williams broke Barry Sanders' former single-season rushing touchdown record. Crossing the goal line with just under six minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Williams scored his 17th touchdown of the season on the ground. The teary-eyed Williams could only think of his great-grandfather in the moment.
"My great-grandfather looking down on me, I just dedicate this to him. I do this for him, my great-grandfather, he's 92, I'm just grateful for him being in my life," Williams said. "There's a lot of emotion right now, but I am just grateful to be able to play this game for my great-grandfather and he's looking down on me and making him proud."
Bringing his fun and emotional spirit over to New Orleans, Williams signed with the Saints on March 17 and didn't let the business of the game get him down.
"They offer they gave me I feel like was very just disrespectful and just showing that they really didn't want me to be there like that," Williams said to reporters at his introductory press conference. "But it's all love. I know my teammates, everybody there at the Detroit Lions have love for me and all that, but at the same time, it's just we couldn't come to terms on things. It's just funny is all."
Even though Williams is in the spotlight seemingly every week, he still relates to the introverts of the world and doesn't mind stepping away to collect his thoughts and play what he loves.
"I'm already in the dark 'cause when I go home, I turn on my blinds and stuff like I'm in the Batman cave, and that's how I play video games," Williams said when speaking of Aaron Rodgers' darkness retreat.
Williams often shows up to his press conferences and media availabilities wearing his favored Naruto and Pokémon gear.
"I don't care. I just want to play football and go home. But you're holding me right now. I just want to go home and play Pokémon," Williams said after the Lions beat the Bears on New Year's Day.
Interestingly, Williams is often tasked with running over opponents and protecting the football for his team, but he also seeks to protect the world of Pokémon he loves.
"Pokémon," Williams said, correcting a reporter who pronounced it "Pokeman" in the same postgame interview session after Detroit's win over Chicago.
"I don't know what cards you've got," Williams said. "They must've sucked. Because you're calling them Pokeman."
The 6-foot, 224-pound running back has since expanded on his love for the popular franchise that is Pokémon. While wearing a hat of the character "eevee," one of the many Pokémon in its universe, Williams assured reporter Luke Johnson that he would learn everything about the anime.
"If I was a Pokémon trainer, I'd be a dark type, for sure," Williams said. "You would think I'm all, yeah, but this smile can be like for evil, too."
At the end of the day, Williams is driven to win like most football players. He has exclaimed several times that he wants to push himself and his teammates to the next level. The Saints running back is willing to sacrifice anything necessary to help the team win.
"I want to be a part of the team no matter what I do. Blocking, running it, shoot get back to a kick return, punt return. Whatever they need me to do, I'm with it," Williams said.
His light attitude, however, is the differentiating factor for the powerful running back, and Saints fans will surely enjoy the combination of personality and physicality that Williams brings to the table.
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