If you’re searching for one player who epitomizes the early stages of a cultural shift in the Detroit Lions locker room, look no further than running back Jamaal Williams.
From an on-field perspective, Williams fills a need as a do-everything backfield complement to rising star D’Andre Swift. But it’s Williams’ infectious personality and positivity that are a breath of fresh air for a team that has been something worse than bad the past few seasons. They’ve been boring.
In his first video call with local media as a member of the Lions, Williams’ personality was on full display as he cycled through the reporters on the call as they signed on, taking playful jabs at the facial hair of two. He called former Detroit News reporter Mike O’Hara a “silver fox” and correctly pegged WXYZ Channel 7 reporter Justin Rose as an avid golfer who probably spends every weekend at Topgolf.
The call was appropriately lighthearted for March, well before the serious football questions need to be answered. And it was a refreshing change of pace for a new addition, given the previous regime often appeared allergic to fun.
And while fun is not a primary pillar of a successful locker room culture, it can be an underrated ingredient in a formula that’s typically headlined by hard work, communication and teamwork.
Williams certainly understands both winning and successful culture. He comes to Detroit having experienced both the past four seasons in Green Bay. The last two years, the Packers posted a 26-6 record in the regular season, prior to being knocked out of the playoffs in the conference championship each season.
In Detroit, Williams is enamored by the opportunity to play for Dan Campbell, someone similarly known for their personality and energy.
“They get me stoked,” Williams said. “People think I’m a hype man, but having him, (offensive coordinator) Anthony Lynn, all these dudes, they really be hyping. They (are) their own hype. I feel like we have so many hype men, it’s about to get crazy.
“This year is going to be great,” Williams said. “I’m about to enjoy every minute of this because it’s gonna be good. You get people like this, who have the same mentality that you’ve got, that want to win and they gonna give people the opportunities to make those plays. I’m just grateful to have people that believe in me and want me to be out there to make those and just giving me these opportunities. I’m not going to waste them. I’m going to go to work, you know what I mean, and I’m not taking any moment for granted.”
Williams is coming off a productive season where he tallied 741 yards from scrimmage and averaged 4.2 yards per carry. He was a trusted member of Green Bay’s backfield rotation, whether as a runner, receiver or in pass protection.
“Shoot, I can block, you know what I mean?” Williams said. “I’m going to protect the quarterback. That’s what I was made for. That’s my best friend. He’s right next to me. I got to make sure he’s good.”
With the Packers, Williams was the second punch in the combination led by Pro Bowler Aaron Jones. Williams projects to settle into a similar role with the Lions, behind Swift, the team’s second-round pick from a year ago who scored 10 touchdowns as a rookie.
If that’s how it shakes out, that’s fine, but Williams is eager to prove he has more to offer than he got to show with the Packers.
“I think I’m just gonna get more opportunities to show what I can do outside the backfield, running routes, (running) downhill, try to make more explosive plays,” he said. “…I just want to do more than I’m already doing.
“People feel like they already know my (ceiling),” Williams said. “But they don’t know how far I really can go. I don’t even know how far I can go because my potential is unlimited because my mind is. I’m just gonna keep going and find the things that I need to work on. You can never stop working. You know what I mean? That’s my mentality and I know that’s what you need to believe if you want to be a better person, always.”