Lions' Williams ready for pro career to FINALLY begin
Jordan Williams was sitting at home, watching the 2020 CFL alongside his mother, who he was quarantining with as the COVID-19 pandemic had just started to reach its peak in North America.
“Leading up to draft night, I had spoken to every team but the BC Lions ironically,” Williams said. “I’d have conversations and things of that nature, and then the morning of the draft, Coach Rick Campbell called and asked me some questions. Next thing you know, I went first overall.”
Williams admittedly didn’t think he was going first in the draft. Calgary held the top pick following a trade with Ottawa for Nick Arbuckle. The Stamps needed help in the trenches and the thought was that defensive lineman Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund had a very good chance to be the first name off the board.
However, BC swooped in with Calgary on the clock and acquired the first selection.
They wasted no time in scooping up Williams, and he received his second call of the day from Campbell shortly after.
That day wasn’t the first time Williams and Campbell had interacted, however. Williams had tried out for the Ottawa REDBLACKS ahead of the 2019 campaign. After standing out, Campbell struck up a conversation with the Baltimore, MD native. When he asked if Williams had ever been to Canada, he was surprised to learn that his mother was born in Canada -- Toronto, to be exact.
He’d made some trips up to visit relatives in the past but spent the majority of his life south of the border.
Williams had missed the chance to be a part of the 2019 Draft class, so instead, he sat out the year with the intention of being in the 2020 CFL Draft.
The linebacker was a walk-on at East Carolina, but quickly worked his way up the depth chart, becoming a multi-year starter for the Pirates’ program. So he was no stranger to working hard to accomplish his goals.
The first step in the process for the 26-year-old was the Ontario Regional Combine, where he’d have a chance to earn an invite to the National Combine. He landed himself on every CFL team’s radar with his performance, posting a combine-best 4.48 40-yard dash time and a 39-inch vertical -- second behind only receiver Kian Schaffer-Baker.
The same day of the Regional Combine, the league announced that they’d be cancelling the National Combine, leaving Williams waiting and wondering what was next. He had been able to open a lot of eyes and his draft stock was rising.
That one showing -- along with his game tape from college -- was enough to vault Williams to the top spot in the draft, and a year after first meeting Campbell, the new Lions head coach wanted him to be a premier piece on a rebuilt defensive unit.
“It means a lot for him to see something (in me),” Williams said of being drafted by Campbell. “He found a diamond in the rough and all I’ve got to do is just make him right. I’ve got to go out there and make plays and live up to expectations.”
WIth BC looking to rebound from a 5-13 campaign in 2019, they needed help on the defensive end, and linebacker was a major point of emphasis for Campbell.
But the journey to his first career game was far from over, as the global pandemic continued, forcing the Canadian Football League to postpone and then eventually cancel the 2020 season.
“Prior to the cancellation of the season, it was like, ‘Oh my goodness. What’s going to happen.’ After the first week, I tried to block it out and just live my life without worrying,” Williams said. “Whatever happens is going to happen. I have to control what I can control. So I just did some meditation and breathing and prepared my body and acted like the season was going to happen.
“It didn’t really affect me because I just evaluated everything and took the good with the band and the bad with the good.”
Williams put in the work during the extended off-season, and after a year of virtual meetings and workouts, he was able to finally make the trip to Vancouver for training camp.
He’s been able to explore the city briefly, but his sights have fully been on training camp with the Leos.
This year provided an unprecedented wrinkle for teams, as the 2021 Draft took place back in May, meaning that teams would be bringing two draft classes to training camp.
That has upped the competition across the field, with extra players in the fold battling for roster spots.
“It definitely ramped up the intensity because guys are thinking that their spot could easily be taken if they drafted the same position but a different year,” Williams said. “The guys who are out there are really trying to give it their all, and at the end of the day, you just have to move with the flow of the punches. If you do good, then that’s good. If you do bad, hopefully you get another chance.”
With rosters being finalized ahead of Week 1, all that’s left to do is hit the field. The Lions have a hefty task ahead of them to open the year, as they head to Regina to take on the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who took home the West Division crown in 2019.
Additionally, Riderville will welcome their team back with a sold out Mosaic Stadium.
Despite having an elongated wait to play his first professional game, Williams doesn’t have any nerves going into Friday’s matchup. He’s just ready to get back between the lines to help BC make it back to the postseason in 2021.
“I don’t really get too caught up in all the craziness and the fans. You just look at it as a game and I’m just out there having fun,” Williams said. “...It’s going to be awesome. We’re going to feed off that crowd and we’re going to be excited. People didn’t play football for at least two years and I haven’t played football in even longer.
“It’s going to be crazy. It’s going to take some time to get used to. But once we get our feet in front of us, we’re going to be locked and loaded and good to go.”