On a Georgia defense with two returning All-Americans, a possible early round NFL draft pick at nose guard and a dynamic two-way player poised to show his talent at cornerback, safety Shawn Williams doesn‚Äôt get talked about very much.
‚ÄúHe will,‚Äù said Malcolm Mitchell, the talented sophomore cornerback-receiver. ‚ÄúGuarantee you. Go watch the film. If anybody wants to know about Shawn, go watch the film to see. You‚Äôll see what he brings. It‚Äôs at a whole other level. I promise you that.‚Äù
Williams didn‚Äôt make the first-, second- or third-team preseason All-Southeastern Conference teams by either the coaches or media despite leading the Bulldogs last season with 72 tackles and finishing second with four interceptions.
‚ÄúIt doesn‚Äôt really bother me because I know it‚Äôs something that other people don‚Äôt know,‚Äù Williams said. ‚ÄúI feel like I‚Äôm the best safety there is and that‚Äôs my mindset. That‚Äôs to go out there and prove it.‚Äù
The senior from Early County High admits he‚Äôs talked to defensive coordinator Todd Grantham about what is it that he has to do to raise his profile. He said Grantham told him to continue to play like he has and he should get what he wants.
‚ÄúI think Shawn is a man on a mission,‚Äù said outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, a consensus All-American last year. ‚ÄúI just love the way he plays. He‚Äôs passionate, he‚Äôs dedicated. If you watch the plays, he‚Äôs just so passionate about the game. Being out there, we feed off Shawn a lot of times in the game. He just has so much energy.‚Äù
Those are good attributes to have for a secondary where Williams will be counted on to provide steady leadership, particularly early in the season when it could be missing two key players as cornerback Sanders Commings is suspended two games and All-American safety Bacarri Rambo faces a drug-related suspension that has not been announced.
That means Williams, who has played in 40 games with the Bulldogs and started 16, will help show the way for younger teammates in the secondary, including Damian Swann, Corey Moore and Devin Bowman.
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs as good an off-the-field-teammate-type of guy that you want to be around if you‚Äôre a younger guy trying to learn,‚Äù secondary coach Scott Lakatos said. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs been great showing guys what to do. He‚Äôs been great in the meeting room. He‚Äôs got some good experience under his belt now. He‚Äôs finally reached that point. He loves the game. He takes it serious. He takes his role as a leader serious.‚Äù
Williams said he doesn‚Äôt feel like he has the weight of the secondary on him.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs 11 guys,‚Äù he said of the defense. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôve all got to do our jobs. I will be that team leader that they can come to. ‚Ä¶We‚Äôve got to know that no matter who we take to Missouri (in the second game) that we‚Äôre going to put our best 11 that we can put on the field and we‚Äôre going to come play ball and hit them in the mouth on every play.‚Äù
Talk like that is why Lakatos says the 6-foot-1, 217-pound Williams ‚Äúbrings a little bit of a mentality to our secondary. He‚Äôs physical and he‚Äôs accountable. He knows where he‚Äôs supposed to be.‚Äù
And he wants to be on the field more than just on defense.
Williams asks to contribute as much as he can on special teams units.
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs just kind of, ‚ÄòCoach, I‚Äôd like to play 100 snaps if I could to help Georgia win,‚Äù head coach Mark Richt said.
Maybe that will help him become more appreciated outside his own locker room. Jones and nose guard John Jenkins are the ones showing up on all those preseason award watch lists and not living in the shadow of Rambo among Bulldogs‚Äô safeties.
‚ÄúI think Shawn Williams is a great football player as well,‚Äù Richt said. ‚ÄúI think Shawn is going to have a tremendous year and I think he‚Äôs going to play pro football a long time. Whoever gets him is just going to love that guy. I think he‚Äôs a special player as well.‚Äù
Jones said he tells Williams, ‚ÄúJust keep playing. You‚Äôre one of the better safeties in the country,‚Äô‚Äù Jones said.
Mitchell says Williams isn‚Äôt preseason All-SEC ‚Äúbecause they weren‚Äôt paying attention. I promise you if they would have been paying attention he would have got it. He‚Äôll get it this year.‚Äù
Said Lakatos: ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs going to have a big year for us. We‚Äôre looking forward to that.‚Äù