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Marcus Williams thriving with Jets, proving doubters wrong

Marcus Williams wasn't heavily recruited, invited to the combine or drafted. Now, he's using all of that as motivation.

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. It happens every time Marcus Williams steps on the field. Just before the snap of the ball, the same thing passes through his mind. It’s then replayed over and over again.

Every. Single. Play. 

As the Jets second-year cornerback lines up, he thinks of everyone that said he wouldn’t be where he is right now. He thinks of every major Division I college that passed on him, the invite he never got to the NFL’s scouting combine, and the 32 teams that subsequently elected not to use one of their draft picks on him. 

He’s reminded of it all. And then, the play begins. And his focus changes. 

Because that play then becomes an opportunity, a chance to show everyone who didn’t believe in him… they screwed up.

“Everyone has their reasons why they go out there. That’s one of my reasons,” Williams told Scout.com near his locker. “I feel like I was passed up on since high school; everyone looked past me. It’s what keeps me going. 

“I enjoy it. I enjoy it because I enjoy proving people wrong.”

Ever since signing with the Jets midway through last season following his release from the Texans  practice squad, Williams has left his coaches scratching their heads on how the little-known cornerback from North Dakota State managed to slip past the eyes of scouts. After all, he has ideal size for a corner (5-11, 196-pounds), is physical enough to get up in a receiver’s face at the line, can play man and can play zone. 

There’s also one thing he does better than most. No matter where Williams has played – Hopkins High School, North Dakota State University, the Jets – he somehow, someway comes down with interceptions. 

“He’s just a tremendous football player,” Jets defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers said. “He’s a playmaker. The way he plays corner, he has a lot of savvy. The guy really studies; he knows what’s coming. When he has a chance to make a play on the ball, he does”

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In college, Williams set the school record with 21 interceptions, and the FCS record by returning seven of those for touchdowns. This year, Williams has intercepted a team-high six passes. That’s the third-most picks of any player in the NFL. 

 

But here’s the mind-boggling thing that’s almost unfathomable about that stat: Williams is doing it as the Jets fourth-string corner and spot-duty safety. 

He has intercepted those six passes playing just 263 defensive snaps. To put that number in perspective, the Bengals Reggie Nelson (8 interceptions), the Panthers Kurt Coleman (7) and the Chiefs Marcus Peters (7), the only players with more interceptions than Williams, have played a minimum of 926 snaps.

How the heck does Williams do it?

“Quarterbacks are just throwing me the ball,” he said, laughing. 

Every time the ball is in the air, Williams said he takes it as a challenge, a chance to earn some respect. When the pass is thrown his way, it means the quarterback believes he can complete the pass. He’s not worried about Williams defending it. 

So, Williams, who credits his ball skills to his time spent as a wideout in high school, wants to put a little dent in that confidence. 

“That’s what it is, it’s a chance,” Williams said. “It’s a chance for you to make a play. Either you’re going to make the play, or the receiver is going to make the play. I mean, in my mindset, I’m a competitor and I want to be the one to make the play. 

“When I see the ball in the air, and I’ve got a good view of it, I’m gonna go and get it.”

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The thing is, though, it’s not just interceptions that Williams is making. He’s got 22 tackles, 1.5 sacks and has forced a fumble this year as well. Even in a secondary comprised of Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Buster Skrine, he’s forcing the Jets coaches to find ways to get him on the field. Because, well, every time he’s on it, he makes plays. 

At the moment, Williams is seeing time as the Jets dime corner, and has worked himself in at safety. 

There have been some rumblings, with struggles by other players at other positions, to get Williams more playing time. Just none of those whispers have made their way to his ears. Then again, if they have, Williams hasn’t listened. The 25 year old, who views himself as “the ultimate team player,” is focused on one thing, and one thing only: Winning. 

He doesn’t care about the picks, the forced fumbles, sacks or anything else. As long as the Jets are winning, he’s happy. 60 snaps, or 10, the only number on Williams’ mind come the conclusion of a game is what digits are on the scoreboard. 

That’s why when asked about the most memorable play of his NFL career, Williams couldn’t pick one. Because that play hasn’t happened yet. 

“I’m always looking forward to the next one…When am I gonna make the next play?” Williams said. “When can I go out and help my team?

“This is a privileged job and you can’t take it for granted. I just try to go out there and have fun.”

 

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This article will also appear in Saturday's edition of The Journal Inquirer

Connor Hughes is the New York Jets beat writer for The Journal Inquirer and Scout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@Connor_J_Hughes), or via email (connor_j_hughes@yahoo.com)


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