By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Playing behind Taylor Young can be a blessing and a curse. You’re learning from one of the best linebackers to ever suit up for Baylor. But short of an injury, the guy’s not coming off the field.
As a backup at the weakside or “Will” linebacker spot for the last three years, redshirt sophomore Jordan Williams has had to be patient, waiting for his chance. That chance came last Saturday, when Young was moved to the middle spot and Williams filled in at weakside, registering a season-high-tying six tackles in the Bears’ 38-9 road win over Kansas.
“We’ve always believed in Jordan, but this was his opportunity, and he flew around, hit people, knocked the ball out and was physical,” head coach Matt Rhule said. “I thought Jordan Williams was the difference for us on defense.”
For Williams, a 5-foot-11, 220-pounder from Paris, Texas, it was truly a “dream come true.”
“Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve been behind Taylor Young,” Williams said. “It’s like learning from a vet, like learning from a pro. He does everything right and he does everything at a high level. So, being able to watch that and experience that from a back view, and now getting to play with him, it just brings out the best in me.”
Williams racked up monster numbers as a three-year starter at Paris High with 391 total tackles and 18 sacks, earning defensive MVP honors as a senior and honorable mention all-state his last two years.
But, the only other Division I FBS schools to even offer him were North Texas, UTEP and New Mexico State.
“Not a lot of athletes come out of there,” Williams said, “so I felt like that was really a dream come true to be able to play at the top level of Division I football. That was a dream come true coming out of Paris.”
After redshirting in 2015, Williams played in all 13 games and started one last year, posting a career-high 14 tackles with nine solos and one stop behind the line at No. 9 Oklahoma. For the season, he had 29 tackles, one sack, a forced fumble and three tackles for losses.
“Playing behind Taylor, I just learned a lot more about playing linebacker and playing football in general,” he said. “He’s like a big brother to me. Being behind him was a good thing and a bad thing. I wanted to play, but I also had to learn to grow up and play at a higher level. And watching Taylor Young helped a lot.”
“You have to learn from going through it, so you have to mess up to make yourself right,” he said. “This defense is very pro-style, and I feel like once you get it and it clicks, this is a great defense.”
Playing alongside his “big brother,” with Young moving to the middle spot to replace an injured Johnston, Williams flourished in the Bears’ first win of the year.
“We’ve challenged him to become more physical, and I thought he played really, really physically in that game,” Rhule said. “When you face those offenses that are so multiple, you have to have everyone on the same page. And I thought Jordan was so calming out there. Between him and Taylor, they were really able to captain the ship and make sure we were all playing the same, making sure we all had the right adjustments.”
After “you get a win and a taste of victory,” Williams said, “you keep wanting more.”
“We’re bought in now and we understand the defense, so we’re just going to keep getting better and better until we know it like the back of our hand,” he said. “And we’ll be playing so much faster. That will be a great thing for moving on in the future.”
The Bears (1-8, 1-5) face Texas Tech (4-5, 1-5) in the annual Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Shootout at 11 a.m. Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.