In a turn of events that should come as a surprise to no one, this week’s highlighted player is the one shining light from’s Sunday’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Javonte Williams.
With Melvin Gordon out due to shoulder and hip injuries, Williams got his first NFL start; and he made the most of it.
He rushed for 103 yards, averaging 4.4 yards per carry, and finished with the most receptions and the second-most receiving yards with one less than Jerry Jeudy.
Williams has spent his entire football career having to fight for attention. He’s a man of many layers and dimensions. With Broncos Country already clearly infatuated with him, it seems he’s finally earned the respect his name deserves.
Fighting For a Scholarship
Williams started his career at five years old, playing flag football. His mother, Shekemia, frequently got into arguments with other parents because he liked to tackle the other kids.
He attended Wallace-Rose Hill High School in Teachey, North Carolina. Teachey was a tiny town of just 3,000 people. While not everyone in the city knew the name “Javonte Williams,” everyone knew who “Pookie” was.
Williams played linebacker until he was a senior in high school.
Despite averaging 16 tackles a game as a junior, Williams came up empty when it came time to receive college offers to play ball from any big-name school.
College offers weren’t just about playing sports for Williams.
He received offers from many Ivy League schools for his academic achievements. At one point, he almost committed to Yale but made the difficult decision not to as he believed that he wouldn’t be happy there.
As someone who graduated high school as the valedictorian with a 4.6 GPA, going to a school that would provide him with an elite education was at the top of his list.
If that meant quitting football, Williams was prepared to do that.
Kevin Motsinger, his high school head football coach, was determined to help Williams in any way he could. He reviewed some game tape and suggested he switch to running back. While initially hesitant, Williams was too determined to get a scholarship and decided to give it a shot.
Williams rushed for 207 yards in a 50-0 win in his first game at his new position. He finished the season with 2,287 yards, averaging 152.5 per game and 14.4 yards per carry.
However, his inbox remained empty.
Attending such a small school proved disadvantageous in the eyes of college coaches. According to Motsinger, “I was telling all the big programs about ‘Pookie,’ and nobody really wanted to hear it.”
Williams’ last high school game was the 2017 Class 2A state championship against Reidsville at Kenan Stadium. Unbeknownst to Williams, then-UNC coach Larry Fedora was in attendance.
He exploded, finishing the game with 224 yards and a touchdown helping lead Wallace-Rose Hill High School to its fourth consecutive state championship.
Williams finished his final year of high school football as a first-year running back with 2,271 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns.
The UNC coaches set up an official visit for him for the following day. In their meeting, Fedora asked him, “How would you like to come here and give us a championship if I were to give you a scholarship?”
A childhood dream come true.
Due to the College and Career Promise classes he had taken in high school, Williams was able to graduate early and enroll at UNC that January.
Williams played in 11 games as a true freshman, rushing 43 times for 224 yards and five touchdowns.
In his three seasons at UNC from 2018 to 2020, he appeared in 35 games, rushing for 2,297 yards, an average of 6.3 yards per carry, and 29 touchdowns. He also had 50 receptions for 539 yards and another four touchdowns.
In 2020 Williams was named the Tar Heels offensive MVP and earned first-team AP all-ACC.
Where Williams shined the brightest was in his ability to break tackles.
Before the 2021 NFL Draft, Pro Football Focus named him the top collegiate running back in the country as he had led the nation with 75 avoided tackles the previous season and 4.59 yards after contact. His 95.9 rushing grade was the highest PFF had ever given a running back.
Williams decided to forgo his senior season at UNC and enter the 2021 NFL season.
Newly appointed Denver Broncos general manager George Paton was so high on Williams that he traded up five spots from 40 to 35 in the second round to pick Williams.
Sitting at pick number 35, the Falcons were one spot ahead of the Miami Dolphins, whom Paton knew had an interest in him.
According to Paton, if he hadn’t traded up, “He would’ve been gone. We kind of had a good feel for the top of the round, and he was going to go quick.”
The Broncos decision to trade up did not go unappreciated by Williams.
“With them trading up to pick me in the second round, I feel like I need to return the favor,” Williams said. “I need to come in every day and work hard and show what I can do.”
In his record-setting first start this past Sunday, Williams was the first rookie in Broncos franchise history to have over 100 rush yards and more than 75 receiving yards in a single game.
Having already won the rookie of the week title in Week 9, Williams is on track to win it again this week. With his workload and efficiency seemingly increasing every week, he’s continuing to build a case for Offensive Rookie of the Season accolades.
Not too shabby for a guy from Wallace-Rose Hill High School.