BATON ROUGE, La. — From the first time he stepped on campus as an LSU football player, even when he was surrounded by 5-star recruits and future first-round NFL draft picks, Andraez Greedy Williams knew he was going to play.
“My first year here in the fall, we were doing practice and [defensive backs coach Corey] Raymond was telling me, ‘I can see you playing,'” Williams said. “He’s seen my potential. So he said in the spring he was going to give me my opportunity. That came and I was starting in the spring.”
A year removed from that exchange, the redshirt freshman is LSU’s third sideline cornerback, lining up behind junior starters Donte Jackson and Kevin Toliver. But while Toliver and Jackson were respectively the No. 2 and No. 3 recruits at their positions in the nation out of high school, Williams took a less traditional route to the top.
Coming from Calvary Baptist Academy in Shreveport, La., Williams was the nation’s 20th-ranked cornerback and the No. 14 recruit in Louisiana. To put it another way, Williams was the 11th-highest ranked Louisiana recruit signed by LSU in 2016.
But the long, 6-foot-2 Williams started working when he got to LSU. He knew that with Tre’Davious White, Dwayne Thomas, Jackson and Toliver on the roster, he wasn’t going to play much as a true freshman. So he took his redshirt season to get bigger, stronger and better.
It worked. Over the last year, Williams grew from his enrollment weight of 169 pounds to a much stouter 185 pounds, and spent the moments when he wasn’t eating or working out studying film and the habits of the players above him on the depth chart. From White and Williams he learned LSU’s brand of confidence, a swagger unique to “DBU.”
In short, White – a fellow Shreveport native who Williams said he’s known since he was 5 years old — taught Williams to always remain confident, even after making a mistake. And that’s the sort of advice Williams took to heart.
“When I first got on campus, Tre White hit me up and said, ‘This about to be real. You’re in college. This about to be real,'” Williams said. “So I just had the mindset when I first came in of just listen to everything they tell me and translate it to the field.”
In the spring, Williams did just that. Fulfilling Raymond’s 2016 prophecy, Williams worked himself into a steady rotation in the defensive backfield, lining up as LSU’s third option at sideline cornerback. And while that doesn’t sound like a glamorous position, look at it this way:
LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda loves to line up his best cornerback in the nickel against slot receivers. He did it in almost every game last season with White and he’s expected to do it again with Jackson in 2017. So on the occasions that Jackson is in the nickel, Williams has to play like a starting cornerback.
So throw the star ratings out the window. This year, it’s Williams’ time to show what he’s got.
“I don’t really listen to 5-star and 4-star stuff,” he said. “When you get here, you just show you can play ball. Obviously I showed that. Now I’m the third corner on the depth chart and I’m ready to play ball.”