BYU football • 17-year-old has stepped in for injured Alisa, hasn't missed a beat.
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Provo • Surely, Jamaal Williams is too young to be where he is and doing what he is doing.
In jeans and a sweater, the soft spoken, baby-faced Brigham Young running back looks like he should be enjoying his senior year by winning another state championship for Summit (Calif.) High.
When the 17-year-old freshman slips into the blue and white, however, it is another story. He's right where he should be on a team that fits his mental and moral outlook on life.
"I believe I haven't had real trouble because I've been doing it since I was little; I've been the youngest one on my team from Pop Warner to high school and high school to college," said Williams, who took over the job of leading the Cougars' ground attack after Mike Alisa broke an arm during the first series against Hawaii.
"It's been a natural thing."
Prior to Hawaii, Williams carried the football 18 times for a respectable 83 yards. The 6-foot, 200-pounder doubled that output against the Warriors, gaining 155 yards. He tacked on a pair of touchdowns as well.
To Williams, who leads BYU in rushing and TDs, Saturday's date at Notre Dame is just another chance to excel at a game that means everything.
BYU quarterback Riley Nelson is impressed with Williams' maturity.
"The thing I'm most impressed with is his feel for the game," Nelson said. "He hasn't let the transition from high school to college intimidate him at all. He's confident, and it shows. When people are confident, then you tend to have confidence in them."
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall loves Williams' ball security.
"Normally, when you say it, [the football] comes out, so I feel bad even talking about it," Mendenhall said. "But he's been good.
"And man, he is handling the role like he is just comfortable, which is great. I think he is doing well in school, and he's adjusting socially. There's a lot on his plate, but he's on the right track."
Williams is not a member of the LDS Church, which owns BYU. And while he remains committed to his own beliefs, it was what BYU stood for that made the school the right choice.
"Most everybody on team is like me," Williams said. "They want to win but without doing things that hurt the team from winning, like drugs or other things that can hurt. I need to be on a team like this."
Williams averages more than 5 yards a carry. He's also a threat out of the backfield on pass patterns, catching 10 passes for 130 yards, including four receptions in the 42-24 loss to Oregon State. The second of his two touchdowns against the Beavers temporarily tied the score at 21-all.
"I feel like I proved myself [against Hawaii]," Williams said. "I showed I could help the team.
"I love football with a passion. My heart, determination and focus helped me get on the field as a 17-year-old."
Jamaal Williams file
• Williams took over for an injured Mike Alisa against Hawaii and rushed for 155 yards and two touchdowns.
• The 17-year-old true freshman from Fontana, Calif., caught four passes and scored twice in the loss to Oregon State.