An Ode to Josh Williams

Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Gather round brothers and sisters because I’m serving up a massive plate of crow to chow down on: Josh Williams, I owe you an apology.

Now let me clarify one thing: I have never been anti-Josh Williams. I’m not anti any LSU athlete. But I just always thought it was...let’s say interesting that Williams had such a big role in the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

Some of it was out of necessity of course. John Emery and Ty Davis-Price battled injuries in 2020; Emery was also ruled academically ineligible mere days before the 2021 season. Armoni Goodwin’s freshman year was riddled with injury and Tre’ Bradford left school at the end of the 2020 season, only to transfer back in last September, and then leave the team again a few weeks later.

Heck even think about this year: John Emery’s suspension had an extra two games tacked on meaning he hadn’t played football on in nearly two calendar years; Goodwin suffered a hamstring injury in September, and Noah Cain’s a transfer that’s a year removed from an ACL tear. They say your best ability is availability and Williams has been ready each and every time his name’s been called.

Williams isn’t as physically imposing as Leonard Fournette; he’s not as much of a receiving threat out of the backfield like Clyde Edwards-Heliare is; he doesn’t have Trindon Holliday’s world class speed, nor can he break ankles like Derrius Guice. But after what Williams has shown this year, I’m not sure if I’d take any LSU back ever over him if I needed to get two yards to keep a drive alive.

Williams is listed at 5’9”, 200 pounds on LSU’s roster. His 247 recruiting profile had him as a two-star back, number 3,121 overall and had offers from Dayton, Drake, and Lafayette. Not UL-Lafayette mind you, Lafayette University a small liberal arts school in Pennsylvania with an enrollment of almost 2,800.

Williams has absolutely no recruiting evaluation on his page. There aren’t any crystal ball projections, nor are there any comps to other players playing college or pro ball. But you know what else isn’t listed? The the size of his heart or the amount of absolute DAWG inside of him. I mean look at this play right here. Watch him seek out Brian Branch, a future first round pick, like a fucking heat seeking missile. Watch him absolutely maul Branch like a lion attacking a gazelle. Watch him put Branch on his ass, paving the way for Jayden Daniel’s 25-yard overtime touchdown run (also as a special shoutout, watch Brian Thomas Jr. make Eli Ricks’s life absolute H E L L).

And what about this play here in the fourth quarter? Third and seven and Williams gets the hand off, is stopped after three yards but keeps his legs driving and turns it into a 14-yard gain. Tell me that’s not the 2022 version of Edwards-Helaire’s hot route he caught on 3rd and 10 in Tuscaloosa.

I’ll admit seeing Williams get meaningful reps last season and the year before drove me nuts. I always admired Williams for turning down offers at smaller schools, walking on at LSU, and seeing his hard work rewarded with a scholarship. “But come on,” I would say to myself, “do we have to keep playing the former walk on?”

Well someone needed to step up and Williams has been answering the call. He’s LSU’s best back in pass protection. He always pushes the pile forward. He’s got pretty good hands too. Heck on a crucial 3rd down and 2 in the fourth quarter Saturday night I was yelling at my TV “GIVE IT TO 27!!!!” A year ago I probably wouldn’t have even thought about calling Williams’s number in a gotta have it situation. Now? I think it’s coaching malpractice if 27’s not on the field in that kind of scenario.

Josh Williams won’t have his number retired by the LSU football program. When his career comes to a close we won’t see his name anywhere close to the top of the career rushing records. Heck his career defining moment, throwing that block for Daniels in overtime against Bama, won’t show up on the stat sheet.

But Williams is one of those guys you’ll remember forever. The improbable walk-on turned starting running back who was built like Clyde Edwards-Helaire but ran through dudes like Jacob Hester. In this NIL/transfer portal era of college football we’re living in Williams is everything that makes the sport right: a kid picking a school even without getting a scholarship because that’s their dream school, working their ass off for that scholarship, and has now emerged as a legitimate contributor for a team that’s contending for a conference championship. Oh and he’ll leave LSU with a business degree and a national championship ring. Josh Williams is a Tiger in the truest sense and if I could build a roster full of guys like him LSU would never lose a game.

Salute, Josh. I hope you continue to prove me wrong.

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