2020 No. 1 pick Williams ready to roar with Lions

He knows Vancouver rains a lot, even if we recently had one of those weeks in the lower mainland where you’d swear it never does. Whatever the case, that’s not going to stop Jordan Williams from being the best version of himself.

Now that he has officially put pen to paper on his first CFL contract, the top pick of last year’s CFL draft just wants to play a full season of football without any disruptions. At least getting his contract out of the way is one hurdle that has been cleared.

“I was honoured to have the Lions call my name in last year’s draft and now I can’t wait to get up to British Columbia and get this thing rolling,” Williams said.

“I know coach Rick and the entire staff has done a great job assembling this group of talent. That has me even more excited to strap on the pads as soon as we can.”

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Seen here at the 2020 Ontario Regional Combine, Jordan Williams wowed scouts and became the first-ever Regional participant to be chosen first overall (Chris Tanouye/CFL.ca)

Last April, the Lions pulled off some virtual magic when they swapped the third overall pick and 12th overall pick with the Calgary Stampeders for the top selection, plus the Stampeders’ 15th overall pick in the 2020 draft. The Lions used the first pick to secure one of the best athletes from the 2020 Ontario Regional Combine. It was in Toronto where Williams ran an impressive 4.48 seconds for his 40-yard dash, posted a 39-inch vertical and a 10-foot, 8.5-inch broad jump.

Williams has yet to suit up one full season of football after his collegiate career at East Carolina University in 2017, but he won’t let the pressure and the expectations sneak into his head.

“Within those years, I had the opportunity to play with various football clubs. In 2018, it was the 49ers. In 2019, it was the AAF Apollos. And then later that year, it was the Ottawa REDBLACKS [free agent camp],” he said.

“Last year, it was The Spring League. So there’s no pressure. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to play football but it was just nothing crazy. Going into 2021, it’s just another year of football. Nothing is going to be out of the ordinary.”

Through four seasons at East Carolina University, Williams registered a total of 252 tackles for the Pirates. Twenty-three of those tackles were for a loss and he added three sacks. Right after his time at ECU, Williams attended the San Francisco 49ers training camp. And then came the fateful REDBLACKS free agent camp where he was told by GM Marcel Desjardins he was eligible to wait a year and enter the draft as a Canadian. Williams’ mother Astra was born in Toronto and then raised in Trinidad before settling in the United States.

Upon the cancellation of the 2020 CFL season, Williams played in The Spring League for former Toronto Argonauts head coach Bart Andrus, along with other CFL, NFL and XFL talents. Williams’ team, the Generals, were 3-0 before their season was cut short due to COVID-19.

Now looking ahead into the 2021 season and his debut north of the 49th with the Lions, Williams will let his performance does the talking.

“At the end of the day, as long I try my hardest, whatever accolades come after…I don’t really have any set goals. It’s more internal — to be the strongest version of myself,” he said.

Believe it or not, it’s been more than a year since places were forced into temporary closure and the world taking our daily lives virtual. The same goes for gyms. Williams said he was finding ways to train during the lockdown last year. Since then, his training style has changed slightly as he is gearing up for training camp again.

“Once you’re in an off-season, it’s more speed-oriented. Once you are going into a football camp, it’s more position-specific. So, you’re doing stuff like shedding blocks, you’re doing cutting drills, you’re doing DB drills. My training has changed a little as I’m preparing for a harsh camp and a long season,” he said.

To be the No. 1 pick of the CFL draft doesn’t have much effect on Williams. It just means he will need to bring the same energy that he did in ECU’s comeback win against Virginia Tech in 2015. Williams said the Pirates started the game trailing a few scores but fought their way back in the rain. Williams ended up with the game-winning interception to upset the Hokies.

“That’s what really drove me to be the greatest version of myself at ECU. I loved the experience from that game. Our coach loved it. He was so happy and came up to me and said, ‘That’s how you play middle linebacker,’” Williams recalled.

Right now, he is unsure when he can travel across the border but when he does report to Lions camp, you can be sure Williams will bring that same intensity from the Virginia Tech game with him.

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