The Next Honey Badger? 4-Star Jamyest Williams Dominates at 5'9"

Sanjay Kirpalani@@SanjayKirpalaniNational Recruiting AnalystJuly 8, 2016

4-Star CB Jamyest Williams is only the fifth sub-5'10" CB to be rated among the nation's Top 100 overall prospects over the last five recruiting cycles.
4-Star CB Jamyest Williams is only the fifth sub-5'10" CB to be rated among the nation's Top 100 overall prospects over the last five recruiting cycles.Credit: JJ Williams

A high school prospect who measures 5'9", 170 pounds has the kind of frame that typically makes college football coaches skip a recruit's film and move on to the next.

Four-star corner Jamyest Williams—a player approaching 50 offers heading into his senior season—wears those measurables as a badge of pride.

The Peach State standout is a man of action. Words are seemingly hard to come by, especially when he's asked to describe himself.

Between the lines, he's a quick-twitch bundle of dynamite ready to explode at the snap of the ball—whether he's eluding defenders as a kick returner, carrying the ball, catching it or trying to take it away from opponents.

"It's about going out and proving yourself every single play. Some people talk, but it's about earning that respect on the field with how you play and perform," Williams told Bleacher Report. 'There's some kids who get caught up in all of the talk and forget that you still have to prove it every day."

Away from the field, Williams—who recently transferred schools and will play his senior season at Grayson High School in Loganville, Georgia—understands the importance of the decisions and experiences he will encounter in the next few months.

While he's talented enough to play on both sides of the ball in college, his future appears to lie on defense. Moreover, his stature, demeanor and play resemble another diminutive athlete who thrived on proving his detractors wrong—current Arizona Cardinals All-Pro defensive back Tyrann Mathieu.

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What makes Williams similar to the Honey Badger is his fiery mentality and competitive streak on the field.

"Tyrann Mathieu is a guy I really look up to. I study his game, and I know he went through a lot in his life, but he also got through it, and he's just an awesome player," Williams said. "He makes plays wherever he is on the field, and that's what I try to do when I'm out there."

Williams notes that he didn't initially start out rated as a Top 100 prospect overall in his class. Instead, he steadily climbed the rankings thanks to two years of dominant play at Archer High School in Lawrenceville, Georgia—his home for the previous two seasons—sandwiched between a stellar spring and summer camp circuit in 2015.

Even with his accolades, he attacks every snap with the hunger of an athlete searching for his first letter.

That's because he carries the weight of the undersized and overlooked athlete on his shoulders.

At the crossroads of Williams' rise was a father who doubled as his coach until the eighth grade. Lessons were learned through tough love and a Jedi mind trick or two.

"[Football] is all mental. In my mind, once he could get beyond the mental aspect of playing football, as far as making and overcoming mistakes on the field—things such as coming back strong on the next down without getting down on yourself after a mistake—I knew he could be special if he could do that," Jamyest's father, JJ Williams, said.

"To me, it was about challenging him and pushing his buttons to see how he would respond. I figured once I challenged him in a way that no one else could possibly challenge him, and then I knew he could take anything from anybody and be able to succeed at a high level."

Credit: JJ Williams

JJ Williams admits he's heard the whispers from other parents in his community that he's too hard on his son.

They thought he was crazy for pushing Jamyest to the brink mentally and physically during his career in youth leagues.

JJ, undeterred by criticism, carried on. On the field, he wasn't "Dad" to Jamyest. He was "Coach." JJ admits that he was harder on his son than the other kids on his team.

"I held him to a higher standard than everyone else because he is my son. It was all a mental challenge, but he responded," JJ said. "He's been able to overcome the questions about size or anything else that could deter him from conquering his goal in any situation."

Even though he isn't coaching Jamyest in an official capacity anymore, the lessons he taught years ago are the foundation for his son today.

JJ passed the baton to Derrick Tatum, a trainer at Elite Talent Football Academy in Atlanta who has worked with Jaymest since he was in the eighth grade.

They set a plan in motion for him to transition from quarterback to skill positions on both sides of the ball. Tatum—who also serves as the defensive backs coach at Pace Academy in Atlanta—specializes in molding defensive backs.

From the moment he started working with Jamyest, he coined a term that has stuck with his pupil.

"Honestly, I think it's just 'little-man syndrome,'" Jamyest said.

Tatum laughs at the phrase while noting that JJ's influence on Jamyest's attitude is evident and prevalent on the field.

"His dad is a really intense guy. He gets that dog mentality from his dad," Tatum said. "I think because he was so overlooked during his first few years at the high school level, he just got tired of hearing that he wasn't good enough. He just really locked in."

Jamyest dominated as a skill player playing mostly quarterback until his ninth-grade year.

But because JJ had been preparing him mentally for the challenges that awaited him, his attitude and determination have helped him continue to find success as the competition and stakes have been raised.

JJ Williams entrusted the help of trainer Derrick Tatum [center] to help mold Jamyest into a DB.
JJ Williams entrusted the help of trainer Derrick Tatum [center] to help mold Jamyest into a DB.Credit: JJ Williams

Jamyest's ascent into a recruiting phenom wasn't by accident.

Instead, JJ insists he knew respect would come slowly because of his son's smallish build.

There's data to back up his logic.

Since the 2013 cycle, Jamyest is one of only 15 recruits shorter than 5'10" who have landed in the top 100 overall rankings in their respective classes. Furthermore, he's one of only five of those who play corner.

So together, father and son hatched a plan that would essentially send him to scouting camps and college camps from coast to coast during the spring and summer of 2015.

Top 100 Overall Under 5'10
ClassPlayerRating/PositionNational RankSizeSchool
2013Tyren Jones4* APB665'8.5", 202Alabama
2014Malkom Parrish4* CB695'9", 186Georgia
2014Nick Harvey4* CB575'9", 175Texas A&M
2014Budda Baker4* ATH555'9", 174Washington
2014Joseph Yearby4* RB445'9", 190Miami
2014Adoree' Jackson5* CB75'9.5", 182USC
2015Ray-Ray McCloud III4* ATH835'9", 175Clemson
2015Mike Weber4* RB805'9.5", 219Ohio State
2016Sam Bruce4* WR825'8", 180Miami
2016Demario McCall4* APB435'9.5", 171Ohio State
2017Anthony McFarland4* APB545'8", 186N/A
2017Lamont Wade4* CB535'9", 185N/A
2017Jamyest Williams4* CB525'9", 170N/A
2017J.K. Dobbins4* APB505'9.5", 199Ohio State
2017Tyjon Lindsey5* WR285'8.5", 180N/A
B/R research, 247Sports composite rankings

The mindset was simple. If there were touted receiver prospects or defensive backs who were rated higher, Jamyest wanted the chance to compete alongside them in a camp setting to prove them wrong.

"I told him, 'You don't want anything given to you.' I would tell him, 'If this guy is better than you, let's go see him,'" JJ said. "'Where are they at? Let's go find them. If they are better than you, then give respect where respect is due.' That's just the mentality you have to have when you are playing football. If he's better than me, show me and beat me on the field."

The first opportunity to make a name for himself on a national stage came at the Atlanta Nike Opening Regional in March 2015.

In a field littered with stud 2016 prospects such as LSU signee Saivion Smith, Williams won the MVP for the defensive backs segment as an underclassman. (Warning: NSFW lyrics in the following video.)

He would go on to stand out at similar camps such as the Adidas Chicago Showcase and the Sound Mind, Sound Body camp in Detroit.

But he was far from done.

Williams estimates he visited more than 20 colleges in the spring and summer. Included in that spree were visits to Auburn, Baylor, Clemson, Florida State, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Texas to name a few.

Roughly half of his 49 offers came during that time period.

If that weren't enough, he cemented his place as an elite talent with a standout performance last summer at The Opening, which is the premier summer camp showcase featuring the nation's top talent.

Williams, one of a handful of underclassmen invited to the event, was the only 2017 defensive prospect to make the event's all-tournament team, as detailed by Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports.

Wiltfong, who is the director of recruiting at 247Sports, said Williams answered a lot of the questions about his ability to play at the next level with his play on the field and during the camp circuit.

"To [rank] Jamyest that high, obviously what he's done on defense speaks for itself," Wiltfong said. "To be 5'9", I don't question the fact that he can tackle. He's going to be able to wrap up and play the game the right way. He's going to be physical enough to do that.

"Whenever you see him at camps, he's usually the best player on the field. You just roll the dice on those type of guys. You don't do that with many guys his size, but that's why he's special."

But Jamyest wasn't satisfied. He moved to shatter any lingering doubts with a monster junior year for Archer where he lined up at running back and corner and returned punts and kicks.

According to MaxPreps, Williams racked up 1,249 yards rushing while averaging more than six yards per carry with 23 touchdowns.

Over the course of 2015, nothing was given to Jamyest in terms of offers or respect from his peers. He spent those 12 months doing what his father had prepared him for some 12 years earlier. He didn't wait for opportunities to come to him. Instead, he put opportunity in a chokehold.

He did what Mathieu would do. He took what he felt was his.

And that was more meaningful than a ranking or even an offer.

With Jamyest, it's all about respect.

Respect for his abilities, respect for his competitive drive, respect for his work ethic and respect for the game.

Those qualities and his measurables, or lack thereof, are what make him a worthy successor to the star defensive back nicknamed the Honey Badger.

Tatum admits his star pupil has a lot of work to reach that status. Still, he feels Jamyest can get to that level if he continues on his current trajectory and says there are a few characteristics he sees in Jamyest that are critical elements of what has turned Mathieu into a superstar.

"[Jamyest is] hungry. He works hard. He's humble, but he's mad at the guy in front of him on the field. He's mad at anyone who thinks they can beat him on the field," Tatum said.

As he heads into his senior season, he will have to make a choice among the nearly 50 programs that have offered him. Programs such as Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, Ohio State and South Carolina are pursuing him aggressively.

JJ said the size issue is rarely brought up by college coaches recruiting his son. In fact, if it is brought up in a negative manner, it's essentially a deal-breaker.

"Basically, how Jamyest and I gauge a coach is that when we can talk football without the size thing even being mentioned, then we know we have a real coach," JJ said. "Real coaches value football players more than size or measurables. We don't need to talk about size. Either you are a football player or you are not. That's the bottom line."

JJ recalls dealing with coaches such as Florida State's Jimbo Fisher and Ohio State's Urban Meyer who expressed affinity for the way his son competes on the field.

"It's funny and consistent that the one aspect they enjoy the most about my son, they love his dog mentality. They love that spirit within him on the field. His competitiveness is something that they really see and appreciate," JJ said.

Regardless, wherever he lands, don't expect his mentality to change in lieu of the increased fame surrounding his ability to be a game-changer at the next level.

Jamyest Williams is used to being an underdog. He knows what it's like being dismissed on sight alone. He's taken the feelings of being doubted and willed himself into one of the nation's elite prospects in the 2017 cycle.

"I just want to go out and prove my worth to everyone. Another thing with that is getting in front of the coaches and working out with them and observing how they coach you," Jamyest said. "It's a whole different level in college. You have to start over and prove yourself on a daily basis. That's what I love to do anyway."

But don't expect him to celebrate the respect he's fought so hard to earn. After all, that underdog spirit is part of his fabric and is one of the primary elements that has fueled his meteoric rise.

"For all of the guys that always hear that they are 'too small' or 'undersized,' he really takes it to heart and carries that on his shoulders," Tatum said. "He proves it every time he's out there."

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand, and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.