Next up in our Path to the Pros series: a look at Joshua Williams, the Fayetteville State grad who earned a Combine invite thanks to his size and speed.
When Joshua Williams steps onto the field, he’s somewhat of a giant. Standing at 6’3 and weighing 197 pounds, he is bigger than Jalen Ramsey and faster than the Dolphins’ Xavien Howard. Williams’ size and speed give him the potential to be a lockdown defensive back.
In his final season in college, Williams had 31 tackles, six pass breakups and three interceptions. Current NFL Draft projections have the Fayetteville State graduate going as high as the third round and as low as the seventh. One of the looming storylines of this year’s draft is seeing if HBCU prospects will be selected at a higher rate than in the past. In the last two years, only one HBCU alum has been selected out of 524 total picks. Regardless of where he ends up, Williams is grateful for the opportunity.
In a Zoom interview with Boardroom, many of his answers came with a smile that gives a glimpse into his excitement about the NFL Draft.
Randall Williams: When did the dream of going to the NFL become less of a dream and more of a possible reality?
Joshua Williams: That was always my goal. Back in 2020 we didn’t have a season because of COVID but in the spring of 2021, teams were still calling and coming to talk to me even though we hadn’t played. That’s when it was real.
RW: There are a lot of schools in North Carolina larger than Fayetteville State. Were you surprised that NFL personnel were able to find you?
JW: Not necessarily. I thought I was a good player, I always expected to play at the next level. It was less of a surprise and more of a ‘finally’ moment.
RW: You were invited to both the HBCU Combine and the NFL Combine. Talk to me about why you ended up choosing the NFL Combine over the HBCU one.
JW: I got both invites around the same time. One came a day later than the other. Not to downplay the HBCU Combine, but the HBCU Combine was going to do the same things I did at the NFL Combine with less coverage. The build up to the HBCU Combine was nice but it’s not replacing the NFL Combine.
RW: So what was your experience like at the NFL Combine?
JW: It was a crazy experience, I really enjoyed it just to get to say you’ve been at the Combine is an honor. There’s a lot that goes on that week behind the TV that people don’t see. With testing and a bunch of medical stuff it’s really busy. You’re not just going there to chill, you’ve got something to do every second of every day. It’s definitely a strenuous week. But it was great in terms of the coverage and speaking to all the teams. It’s probably the most eventful week I’ve ever had in my life.
RW: What do you see within yourself that makes NFL scouts interested in selecting you in the NFL Draft?
JW: The way I can move at my size. Being 6’3 and being able to move how I move isn’t normal.
RW: Are there guys whose games you try to emulate?
JW: I wouldn’t say there’s just one player but Jalen Ramsey and Stephon Gilmore are standout guys to me, Xavien Howard. I dig into the past too, so guys like Deion Sanders, Charles Woodson and Rod Woodson are people I watch. I want to attack the ball the way they do or just impact the game. Whether it be strips, interceptions or being a nuisance with sticky coverage and great technique, they all have dozens of things to take.
RW: What do you hope for HBCU players in this year’s draft and in years to come?
JW: HBCUs as a whole have blown up now, especially with Deion Sanders and Jackson State. In the past there have been a lot of Hall of Farmers coming out of HBCUs. It’s just now getting a light shed on it that there is talent at HBCUs and smaller schools. From here on out I think there will be a brighter light and more people will get more exposure coming out of those schools.
RW: You have a quiet confidence about you as I ask these questions. Where does that come from?
JW: I’m a humble person. I’m confident, but I wouldn’t be out here without God and a million other people that have helped me. All of this can be taken away so I try to be as humble as I can.
RW: What are the Draft days going to be like for you?
JW: My gathering will be small, just something small with my family. We’ll sit around and watch it.
RW: What are you looking forward to the most if and when you hear your name called?
JW: I can’t wait to find out what city I’m going to and to get there and start playing football. That’s all it is, I just want to be out there playing football, getting better and getting used to the flow of being a professional.
RW: At some point are you planning to give back to the city of Fayetteville and the kids that are going to come after you?
JW: Absolutely. I’ll always do community service in the city but in the future I want to come back and give back. Whether that be football camps or food drives, just giving back to my community and showing love is a part of me.
RW: I know you’re just getting started but let’s jump to the end of your career. When you decide to hang up your cleats for good, how do you want to be remembered?
JW: I can have all the accolades in the world but the biggest thing I want to get from my career was that I was the best possible player I could be. I don’t want any ‘what ifs’ or hypotheticals at the end. I want people to say he had a great career because he gave everything and played the very best football that he could.