ATHENS -- It can be tricky, or downright impossible, to get football players to speak openly about themselves. Heres how you get Shawn Williams to say what he really thinks: You ask him.
How good a defense can his Georgia team be?
I think were among the best, said Williams, a senior safety.
What about you as a player. Are you going to show the country what you can do this year?
Yeah, definitely, Williams said.
Do you think you get overlooked for accolades and honors?
It is what it is, and people are gonna see this year, he said.
Thats actually tame compared to last year, when he proclaimed that Georgias defense was better than LSU, days before the SEC championship game. Or when he expressed surprise he didnt get any All-SEC votes. He wasnt alone.
But Williams doesnt hold back -- either on the field or off of it -- because he is very confident about his abilities.
Youve gotta be confident. You cant think that anybody is better than you, Williams said. And I dont.
OK, it has established that Williams is brash. But heres the thing, his teammates and coaches agree that Williams is underappreciated. The dirty little secret around the team is that while fellow safety Bacarri Rambo was an All-American last year, thanks mostly to his eight interceptions, Williams was just as good. It was Williams who led the team in tackles. It was Williams who excelled in pass coverage as well as blitzing and provided big hits.
You know Rambo we all know is a great player. People have voted him as an AP first-team All-American. But Shawn Williams, I think hes a great football player, as well, head coach Mark Richt said. And I think Shawns going to have a tremendous year, and I think hes going to play football for a long time. Whoever gets him (in the NFL) is just gonna love that guy. I think hes a special player, as well.
Linebacker Jarvis Jones, himself an All-American last year, echoed that sentiment.
He didnt really get a lot of credit. But hes a ball-hawk, a guy that plays with a lot of passion. He pushes me on the field.
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, with his 11 years of recent experience in the NFL, is confident that Williams will be there next year and well after that.
I think Shawn can play in the NFL. I think Shawn is a guy who is kind of like our defense, I mean thats tough, hes physical, hes got a little nastiness to him. He goes about his business. He has a lot of pride in his work, and he wants to win everything. Grantham said. Hes got a bright future, not only for us but down the road, too.
And is Grantham OK with Williams being so outspoken? Yes, he is.
Thats good, Grantham said with a sly grin.
It bears noting that Williams was the player whom Grantham was defending last year when he and Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin got into a shouting match. Franklin felt Williams was taking cheap shots, and Williams was subsequently suspended one half of the next game.
The thing about Williams mouth, however, is that he doesnt actually use it that often. Grantham and teammates describe the Early County native as quiet, and that when he does speak, while it may have some bite, it also has credibility.
If youre taking a play off, hes a guy thats gonna get in your face, senior linebacker Christian Robinson said. Hes quiet otherwise. But when something needs to be said he feels motivated to say something hes not gonna hold back. And I respect that.
True to form, Williams doesnt hold back when asked his goal for this season -- and how hes going to reach it.
I want to be All-American, he said. I think the ways I can do that is -- you know Rambo had eight interceptions, led the SEC in interceptions. Thats what Im gonna try to do. As well as tackles. So thats what Im gonna try to do.
Indeed, no clichés, no boring coach-speak. Just the truth as Williams sees it.
Im gonna tell you what I think, Williams said. No matter what.