Jacquian Williams was the Big East's defensive player of the week for his performance in last Wednesday's win over Rutgers. He had 11 tackles and a key sack late to seal the victory. The senior linebacker also pressured Cincinnati quarterback Chazz Anderson into a game-saving incompletion in the Bulls' previous win. I caught up with the former junior college transfer earlier this week.
You seem to have really elevated your play of late. What has been the key for you?
Jacquian Williams: It was just my coaches talking to me about life and stuff. That got me re-focused and helped my motivation. They were just talking about life after football, whether you go to the next level or don't, life is tough. That really kind of hit me somewhere and got me real emotional.
When did this talk happen?
JW: It was the week of the Cincinnati game, and that kind of just got me into another zone. It helped me out. It helped us all out.
This is your first year of starting. What has allowed you to take on a bigger role this season?
JW: It was just, how long would it take me to adapt to the speed and everything. I worked hard in the offseason and had a lot of older guys tell me what to expect, but I was a little nervous the first couple of games. I just started getting used to it and playing my game.
The new coaching staff talked you up in the spring. Was the coaching change in some ways good for you?
JW: I liked it because they were new and they didn't know anybody. Nobody had any edge. It was a free man's game.
You're a Tampa native who went to Fort Scott junior college in Kansas. How did that work out?
JW: [Former USF assistant] Rich Rachel was the guy who recruited me and said he'd come get me in two years if I went to Fort Scott. I told him, if you come back for me in two years, I'll be back at USF no matter what.
Did you get other offers from schools after Fort Scott?
JW: Yeah. Mostly like Midwest schools, but I was ready to get out of the Midwest. Playing at home was something I always wanted, to let my family see me play. A lot of them couldn't see me play in high school because they were kind of busy. But now they all come to see me and I like that.
You said earlier you knew about life being tough. What did you mean by that?
JW: I think the toughest part of my life was going to Fort Scott and being on my own, having to grow up a little bit. At first when I got out there, a lot of guys who were from out of town started dropping out. It was crazy because they were crying and wanting to go home. It was already tough, and to see those other guys wanting to quit was tough for me. But I made it through and I'm happy I made it through.
What are the challenges of facing this Louisville offense on Saturday?
JW: The coaches told me they've got a running back who's a shifty guy, but if we shut down the run we have a pretty good chance. They said if I can cover down on the tight ends and stuff, it should be a good game.
You guys are still alive in the Big East hunt. Have you talked about that?
JW: Coach [Skip] Holtz calls it a circus, because everybody is waiting for this team to lose or this team to win. He just tells us to play each game. I'm praying we can get what we deserve.
Seniors like you and Mo Plancher have been making big plays lately. Did you guys feel like you had to step things up here in the home stretch?
JW: That was another key point coach made to us. He said that in order for us to make it all the way, seniors have to take a big role in each game. Me and [cornerback] Mistral Raymond, as captains, we had some one-on-one talks. Guys who've been here for four years said that's one thing they never had with the seniors; they never really communicated. So I took it upon myself make to make sure me and "Skinny" [Raymond] talked. He helped me out in the Cincinnati game by having a big game and a couple of pass breakups. That motivated me even more.