Jamaal Williams' mom talks about his transition from BYU to the NFL, giving back to the community, and more

The Williams Family: Jamaal, Jaela, and Nicole (Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo).

Some athletes get a lot of attention because of their parents. In many cases, like Los Angeles Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball, it isn't good attention. For former BYU running back Jamaal Williams, his mother Nicole has brought nothing but positive attention to her son. First, it was her pedigree as a UCLA track athlete. Later, it was her passion in the stands, caught on camera, supporting her son and BYU. Thanks to those television cameras and the social media era, Nicole Williams joined her son in earning a place in the hearts of Cougar fans worldwide.

In a recent interview with Blue Cougar Football, Williams fondly said of BYU, "It was a great time. I miss it."

She has two lasting memories of her son's playing career.

"The first one is his first touchdown. I always remember it was against Utah," Williams explained. "The second one would be when he broke the rushing record, and they put the banner up in the stands. That was a very emotional moment."

She also cherishes the memory of seeing her son graduate.

"That was a really big thing. That's something that you always look towards when your kid's graduating from college."

For those who don't know, Williams majored in economics at UCLA. She has been a school teacher, and currently works in law enforcement as a sheriff for the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.

"I always had a passion for law enforcement," Williams explained. "I was supposed to go to the Air Force Academy out of high school, but I didn't want to commit to the five years after the Academy. When Jamaal and his sister got a little bit older, I decided to apply for the Sheriff's Academy. I went to the academy when I was 35. I was one of the oldest people in there."

Her daughter Jaela was a junior this year and ran hurdles on the UNLV track team.

The recent NFL draft marked the one-year anniversary of Jamaal being drafted and officially joining the NFL. True to his word, Jamaal stayed low key and just played video games while waiting for that life changing call.

"Yeah, that's what we did," Nicole recalls. "We had the video game truck here at the house. Video games on every TV and just played video games with barbecue and had a little fun."

Cougar fans know Jamaal is virtually always relaxed and enjoying the moment. However, as a mother, even in the relaxed video game atmosphere, the NFL was rough on Nicole's emotions.

"I don't want to relive the draft day," Nicole stated. "That was the most stressful time ever. I can't imagine having two sons who play football. That was so stressful. His agent was really good. He was here with me the whole time."

Although, as she put it, "I never had a NFL team because I never wanted to have to chose between my son and my team," when Jamaal was selected by the Green Bay Packers, it hit a little close to home.

Nicole shared, "Believe it or not, me and my daughter were not Green Bay Packers fans. We would root for whoever played against them. It was kind of an inside family joke. I wear green and gold now like I do blue and white. I am a Green Bay Packers mom. ... It wasn't hard for me to be a Packers fan."
One thing she has learned about the Packers franchise in the last year is how strong the fan base is across the country.

"[Green Bay] is a football town," Nicole explained. "I am used to that coming from BYU and being into football. They are a football town. There are so many of my coworkers who are Packers fans. I didn't know there were that many Packers fans. Jamaal did a signing out here with his friend who played for the 49ers, and there were a lot of Packers fans. There are a lot of Packers fans from southern California. Just like the BYU fans are everywhere. I have a lot of my coworkers who are BYU fans, also. There are a lot of Packers fans."

As she did during his college days, Nicole attended as many of Jamaal's games his rookie season as she could. Unfortunately the distance and still having a full-time job prevented her from attending all of them, but at least she didn't have to suffer through frigid temperatures at any of the games she did attend.

"I didn't get to any of the Monday night games," she said. "I didn't get to the Thursday night games. If they were on a Sunday or any other days I made it to the game. The games in Green Bay it wasn't cold. It never got really cold. I was lucky this year. I don't know about next year."

When asked about the differences between the NFL and college, and the transition Jamaal has had to make, she quickly pointed out that, from a football standpoint, "I don't think it is different. Jamaal just loves football." However, "The NFL is a little bit more than just football. It is a business."

Nicole continued, "It's just like your job, my job, that is the one thing that he had to get used to. The business aspect of the NFL. He's learning now. He just finished doing his taxes. He's never had a job. He's getting to know who Uncle Sam is. It is that part, the business part, of it that a lot of athletes have to get used to, and they have to incorporate it into playing football. I think the athletes need to be better prepared or they need more guidance on the business aspects of the NFL."

Naturally, as Jamaal's parent, she has fallen back on her education and experience to help guide him. Jamaal has also benefited from the support structure his agent has provided.

"I majored in economics," Nicole emphasized, and she pointed out, "I was a single mom. I think I did pretty well as far as finances. But that is more money than I made in half of my career.

"His agent is very good on preparing their athletes making sure they are financially set. He has a financial adviser with Morgan Stanley that sat down, learned his ways, what it is that he likes to do. He set a budget for himself. His agent said he is really good.

"Jamaal is really cheap, actually. He is just the opposite from no money to having money. He is really cheap. I have to buy him stuff. You know, I tell him buy something for yourself, so I buy him stuff.

"We have Ernst and Young. They have tax advisers. I think a lot of people get into it where they don't want to pay anyone to manage their money or anything like that, but when you have never been in that type of tax bracket--Jamaal got nine W2s. I only got one. They have to pay taxes in every state that they play in.

"There are a lot of things that people don't know. The athletes, if they don't have a good support system, they don't know. How many times do you get your mail and just throw it in a drawer? They have never worked and had to pay taxes. They don't know the tax fees, interest rates, late fines that you get. I have to say that Steinberg's company they are really good on the whole aspect."

Part of that whole financial aspect, although the financial side is usually secondary, is taking the time and using personal resources to give back to the community. BYU alumni are no strangers to serving other, and Jamaal is no exception to that.
Nicole noted, "This year we got a little bit of a head start to prepare for different things that Jamaal wants to do for different communities. Now, it is time to give back to the communities and not try to hold on to everything but try to give back to the community that got you where you are."

For Jamaal, there is no shortage of worthy causes within his family.

"We haven't named a specific foundation yet," Nicole explained. "My nephew, my brother's grandson, is nine months. He was born with an eye disease where his pupils didn't get fully developed when he was born. I have another little cousin who was born with a heart disease. There are so many things that [Jamaal] wants to help within our family. We haven't picked one. We are in the process of establishing a foundation. It will probably be more towards children born with different types of birth defects."

Jamaal has already engaged in giving back to his local community several times.

"He did a football camp this year back home at his high school with his best friend," Nicole started. "It was free for 200 kids. We provided t-shirts, lunch. They got to play 7-on-7. Kenny Clark (Packers defensive tackle) is from our area, so he came by. That was the first time it has been done in our area. He has another friend Victor Bolden who plays for the 49ers. This was his rookie season. They had a signing at the local Macy's you could have brought anything, and they would have signed it for you.

"I've worked in Moreno Valley, and we have a school that had, we call it, an action program. I go through Jamaal's fan mail, and they wrote him letters all the time. I look at the address, and I'm like, 'Letters are coming from where I worked at.' I went to that school, and I got the teacher's schedule and ... Jamaal came down to the school and surprised the students and the teacher and took pictures.

"He also provided tickets for the youth at our church. He provided transportation and tickets to a Clippers game. He wasn't able to come, but they had a really good time. They got to go down to the floor before the game; high five the players when they came out of the locker room. That was really fun.

"They don't have too much time for themselves, actually. I kind of try to schedule things in advance so he can have a little bit of time for himself, and also give back to the community. But there's a lot of things that we have planned right now. We don't want to limit it because anything can come up, so he's kind of real open right now: however, whenever, and whoever he can help. That is our motto right now."

That motto could result in Cougar fans near Provo being a recipient in the near future.

"Jamaal liked roller skating when he was at BYU," Nicole said. "We are trying to coordinate something at that skating rink in Provo."

While Jamaal has been busy in the community, he hasn't forgotten to put in the work to prepare for season two in the NFL. Nicole has been right there with him.
"I've been working out," she said. "He came home for the offseason. He was working out with his godfather who was also his track club coach. He was working on his speed. ... I was working out with him; it was really fun. I like it now. I have been building some muscle. I still continue working out even though he is gone. I am seeing a lot of results. I can't wait to show off the final results. I really like it. It is really motivating for me. I can admit it now. I used to be really afraid of the weight room. I would go to the gym and do the treadmills, but I never really incorporated weights into my workout."

When Jamaal returned to BYU after sitting out the 2015 football season, it was obvious he had done some working out. He came back in 2016 better than ever. Blue Cougar Football asked what was done during that time to bring about such an improvement.

"I kind of wanted him to take the time off," Nicole begins. "He wasn't 100 percent after getting surgery, and we just sat down and kind of looked over everything. ... Are you on track to graduate? What are you going to do? You need to think about your health. I thought it was him going on his mission. He went on a mission and got stronger, did his training, and strengthened his knee and dug deep and learned about Jamaal. What's his purpose in life. What he was going to do and how he was going to get better. And he did that."

Although Jamaal has moved on to the professional ranks, the Williams family has not moved on from BYU. Nicole is keeping the relationships and connections alive. She even plans on attending one of the football games this season.

"I still talk to a lot of the parents," Nicole noted. "I talk to the coaches. Isaiah Armstrong doesn't live too far from me. I talk to his father, and Isaiah, and Squally [Canada]. ... Fred Warner's mom invited me to his graduation/draft party. I still talk to a lot of the staff, Jack [Damuni]. When they play Wisconsin I plan on going to that game. Jamaal is having a home game the next day. I do plan on going to the Wisconsin-BYU game. I talk to all the boys, Kai's mom, I talk to Michael Davis. I keep in touch with all the guys. They'll send me a message or a tweet on social media."

Hopefully, those connections will always be there. Cougar Nation is proud to count Nicole and Jamaal as citizens.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com