You’d be hard-pressed to find a program that produced a more exciting offense than the one we watched at North Carolina in 2020. The team averaged more than 41 points per game and actually topped 50 points on four occasions.
The program achieved such feats on the backs of several breathtaking playmakers that will be drafted this April.
The star of the show was running back Javonte Williams. Williams may have been a familiar name before the 2020 season kicked off, but he established himself as one of the nation’s best players in his final campaign by accounting for 1,445 yards from scrimmage and an astounding 22 total touchdowns.
Williams possesses a dazzling skill set that blends physicality with elusiveness. He has every tool and trait to become an elite offensive weapon at the next level.
I had an opportunity to discuss Williams’ journey with him. From the way he developed his skills to how North Carolina best prepared him for what’s next, we had a long conversation that paints a picture of why he’s one of the most complete players in this class.
JM: You were on the NFL draft map before this season, but your stock has really soared since then. What changed for you in 2020?
JW: I just started playing the game with more confidence. My first two years at North Carolina were a learning experience. I was very raw and I was just trying to soak up as much knowledge as I could. I was still hesitant about certain plays. I feel like I put it all together in my junior year. Everything seemed to work for me.
JM: One of the things that jumps out at me about your game when I put the tape on is your ability to break tackles and pick up chunks of yardage after initial contact. How did you develop that skill?
JW: I feel like it’s something that just happened for me. I never want to be tackled by the first defender. I can’t let the first person wrap me up. It’s just a mindset, to be honest with you. I’m always trying to run through the first defender.
JM: You had 157 carries in 2020, but you also averaged more than two catches per game. How important is that versatility to the value of a running back nowadays?
JW: It’s incredibly important. A lot of NFL offenses are incorporating more spread looks nowadays. Having another weapon that can come out of the backfield and catch the ball is such an important aspect of the game today. It makes it tougher on defenses. It’s such a valuable weapon to have in your offense.
JM: North Carolina is well known for deploying an offense that’s friendly to play in. What can you tell me about the scheme that you guys ran, and how it prepared you for the next level?
JW: I loved playing in our scheme. I learned more about football this year than I ever have, dating back to my high school years even. Being with [offensive coordinator] coach [Phil] Longo for the past two years, I learned so much about the game. I learned a lot of things that I didn’t know previously. I give a lot of credit to coach G [running backs coach Robert Gillespie] for developing me into the player that I am today. He taught me so much.
Our system was a great one to play in because I feel like a lot of NFL offenses run a similar scheme.
JM: How would you summarize North Carolina’s scheme?
JW: It was very basic. We could call certain plays three times in a row because they looked so different and you would never know it was the same play unless we told you. The average fan would never realize it. It looks different, but it’s the same play with different options.
JM: What do you feel was the best game of your college career and why?
JW: I honestly feel like it was the Florida State game. Even though we lost, I had a good game. I did a great job catching the ball in that one. I had a couple of big, explosive running plays. I made people miss in the open field. I also had my best game as a blocker.
JM: You have great feet and vision. What is it about your game that allows you to string together moves in the open field so effortlessly?
JW: I’m always thinking about what I’m gonna’ do before the play even happens. I pay close attention to the rotation of the safeties. I look for where the linebackers are lined up. I always try to take in that information before the snap. I have a great feel for the alignment of the defense pre-snap. These are the things that help me be successful once I reach the second level.
JM: You’re such a unique playmaker. I’m curious as to which players you admired growing up. Do you model your game after anybody in particular?
JW: My favorite player is Todd Gurley. I watched him a lot when I was in high school. I even went back and watched his high school highlights. All the way to Georgia and to the NFL, I’ve always followed his career closely. I definitely try to model my game after him.
JM: That’s a great choice. What’s your favorite part about playing the running back position?
JW: Scoring touchdowns, definitely (laughs). Other than that, I feel like the running back is the most unique position on the field. You can make the argument that the quarterback position is more unique, but they’re both unique in different ways. We can run, catch, and block with the O-line. We can wear a different hat on any given snap. You don’t really get that with any of the other positions. I love the unique aspect to it.
JM: I want to give you a scenario that I give to a lot of running backs. What do you prefer, a 75-yard TD run, or carrying the ball six or more times on a long drive that still results in a touchdown?
JW: I really wanna go 75 yards every time I touch the ball (laughs). Both of those are great, but I’m always looking to make the big play.
JM: Every running back does. You were very much involved in a timeshare in the backfield with another great player in Michael Carter. How can that experience serve you well going forward?
JW: I get this question a lot and I usually answer it the same way. I feel like (with) Michael and I, the reason we’re both such good players is because we pushed one another. That’s the truth. I can’t give you a different answer. Michael made me a better player through competition, and I believe I did the same for him. We always competed in practice. The coaches saw to that. The things I wasn’t good at, he challenged me to get better at and vice versa.
As for how it translates to the next level, there are so many good running backs in the league. Whichever team drafts me, I’m pretty sure they’re going to have another great running back in the position room. We can work together and feed off one another just like Michael and I did. It’ll make both of us better players.
JM: That’s a terrific answer. If you could take a handoff from one NFL quarterback, who would it be and why?
JW: Does he have to be playing today or can it be anybody?
JM: It sounds like you want to say somebody that already retired and I’m very intrigued. Go right ahead.
JW: Brett Favre. That’s who I watched a lot growing up. My dad was always a Vikings fan. We watched him play all the time. He always took the game over in the fourth quarter. As good as he was, he’s always been somebody that I loved to watch play the quarterback position. I would love to take a handoff from him.
JM: This goes without saying, but you prospects get younger and younger every year. I can’t believe you just said Favre and the Vikings, and not the Packers.
JW: (laughs hysterically) Hey, my dad was a big Vikings fan. Growing up, I always remember watching Favre on the Vikings.
JM: I love that. What are you most looking forward to throughout this process?
JW: I enjoy meeting new people. I love to network and things of that nature. I know it’s still early in the process, but with me being here at the training facility, I’ve met a lot of great people that I’m used to watching on television. I’ve met some great players. I’m enjoying the process that allows us to compete with one another and get better every single day. It’s a dream come true.
JM: The NFL Scouting Combine isn’t going to look the same this year, but you’re still going to have a Pro Day to show off your athletic ability. Are there one or two drills in particular that you’re looking forward to competing in?
JW: I’m really looking forward to everything but I’m especially excited about showing off my ability to catch passes out of the backfield. I’m ready to run the 40 as well.
JM: Any predictions on your 40 time?
JW: I have to keep that under wraps (laughs). You’ll just have to wait and see.
JM: I thought you might say that (laughs). I’ve really appreciated your time today, Javonte. In closing, what kind of impact is Javonte Williams going to make at the next level?
JW: The style of my game is going to continue to evolve. I’m going to come in with the right attitude. I just wanna make an impact where people respect me. I wanna be welcomed into the locker room and recognized by my teammates as a person that works hard. I’m gonna do what I gotta do to make the team better.
- Jun 28, 2022
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