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Rookie '17: Perfect role for Williams


JACKSONVILLE – Marquez Williams gets it, and he has for a while now.

Williams, a seventh-round selection by the Jaguars in the 2017 NFL Draft, has a very real chance to fulfill what once seemed an unlikely NFL dream.

That would be a cool story, and an important one for the Jaguars. But because Williams is a fullback, it likely wouldn't be is a story that would bring Williams fame – and by NFL standards at least, there would be comparatively little fortune.

And Williams is OK with that – absolutely and without question.

"I've always been a fullback, my whole life; I learned to love it, actually," Williams said this week as Phase 2 of the Jaguars' voluntary offseason program continued at EverBank Field. "Fullback is a position I've played since little league; it's kind of stuck to me."

So, yeah, Williams is OK with anonymity – and yeah, he actually sort of likes it.

He has been used to it, too. That's because until about this time last year, he not only played a largely unknown position, he played it at a largely unknown school at a largely unwatched level.

Williams played in 2016 at the University of Miami, but he played his first three collegiate seasons at Mars Hill, a Division II school in Mars Hill, North Carolina.

"I guess you'd say it was a little bit of a long road," Williams said. "To me, it was just kind of taking the wild ride in the way of life."

Williams was a good player at Mars Hill, and thought maybe he had NFL talent. What he didn't have for a while was an NFL attitude – and he said that much was made clear to him by his position coach at Mars Hill, Jonathan Saratt.

Williams as a sophomore asked Saratt if Saratt thought Williams could play in the NFL.

"He told me no, that my attitude was bad and I didn't have the work ethic to play at this level," Williams said.

Williams was asked this week what he thought of those words now.

"He was absolutely right," Williams said. "We still speak to this day."

Not only was Saratt right, Williams said the conversation helped change his future.

"I was still going through my growing pains as a younger guy," Williams said. "I wasn't putting in the work and I was just being too big on myself. I learned how to keep quiet and take coaching and listen to people and the ones around me who have my best interest."

Would he be in the NFL without that conversation?

"Probably not," he said. "If he didn't get on me as he did, I wouldn't be here."

Williams made first-team All-South Atlantic Conference in 2015. Miami offered a scholarship for the 2016 season as a graduate transfer.

"Obviously, getting the scholarship to play my final year at Miami was the turning point," he said. "That was when everything became a reality."

For Williams, "everything" is another chance to prove himself – and another chance to do what he did last season – take a step up in competition. Williams is taking the first steps in that step up this week.

"I'm learning pretty quickly as a rookie you just kind of sit back, watch the vets and not get too high on yourself," he said. "You earn the respect of the vets through your work. You do what you can, bust your butt and leave the decisions up to the coaches."

Williams not only embraces the fullback role, he is built for it at 6-feet-1, 260 pounds. And with the Jaguars selecting running back Leonard Fournette No. 4 overall last month – and with the team reintroducing the fullback position to what is expected to be a run-first offense – he has a real chance to not only make the roster, but to play a key role quickly.

He also knows what that role will entail and what it won't.

"I know they pay guys a whole bunch of money to run the football and make guys miss, but as a fullback you stick your nose in, play special teams, pass protect and catch the ball occasionally," he said with a smile. "It's knowing your role and trying to master your craft.

"I'm not a big spotlight person. I don't care about the cameras being my face. The headline I'm worried about is seeing how well the running backs did. I always want a million successes for my running back. I tell them: '100 yards a game and anything after that is extra.'

"I make it not about me and being a team player. That's what's most important to me."

That could make Williams a good fit in the Jaguars' new offensive direction.

And he would be OK with that, too – absolutely and without question.

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