Freakishly athletic Canadian linebacker Jordan Williams bounds up CFL draft boards

Photo courtesy: East Carolina Athletics

Newly-minted Canadian linebacker Jordan Williams is an extremely rare talent.

Williams was named to the top 20 freaks list in NCAA football during his time at East Carolina University — and he was a walk-on. The 25-year-old had lots of interest from two Southeastern Conference (SEC) schools, Auburn University and the University of South Carolina. However, those programs among others never made a full scholarship offer because he was a non-qualifier academically.

That didn’t hold Williams back — he persevered, took a year away from football and raised his grade point average to 3.7 at Shaw University. East Carolina University came calling soon after and it was then that he made the switch. After a year of dominating on special teams, Pirates head coach Ruffin McNeill was impressed enough with Williams to put him on scholarship.

“The coaches tried to trick you. After practice one day he said, ‘We had a bad practice… and guess what? Jordan Williams is on scholarship!” Williams said on the 3DownNation podcast “It went viral.”

The investment from East Carolina paid dividends. Williams recorded 251 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, three sacks, two forced fumbles, one interception, one fumble recovered and defended five passes in 35 games. NFL teams took notice and the Indianapolis Colts told Williams about their plan to draft him. When that didn’t happen, the San Francisco 49ers extended a rookie mini-camp invite.

Despite putting forth a solid workout, Williams was not offered a contract. He had a workout with the Los Angeles Chargers and stayed patient, but an NFL deal never materialized. Ottawa held a free agent camp and Williams stood out to the Redblacks’ scouts who wanted to sign him as an American. While getting to know Williams, the team found out his mother was born in Canada.

“They said you can forfeit your nationality or sit out a year and go into the CFL draft. That was definitely the first time I ever heard it. This sounds alien. Like, am I in the matrix or something?” said Williams.

Following a year of training and working for Amazon as a manager, Williams put his elite athleticism on full display at the CFL’s Ontario regional combine: 4.48 forty-yard dash; 39-inch vertical; 10-foot, 8.5-inch broad jump; and 20 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press. He also measured in at five-foot-eleven and 219 pounds.

Calgary holds the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 CFL draft and might be a good fit for the quick linebacker.

“I could see the Stampeders taking Williams. Look at what they’ve done the last few years with Alex Singleton and Cory Greenwood at middle linebacker,” one league personnel man said. “He could come in and start from day one.”

There is no preference on which city Williams ultimately plays in. That’s largely because he grew up in a military family who moved all over the United States while he was growing up. He was born in Baltimore and lived in Hawaii, South Carolina, North Carolina, New Jersey and Miami just to name a handful of cities.

“I’ve probably been to all 50 states. I’m culturally diverse and that is what helps me get along with other people,” Williams said.

“I just need to get on the field and play football. It don’t matter where it’s at, the grass is going to be so big and the field is going to be so long. I’m just waiting for the opportunity.”

Just like his Instagram handle: The Jordan Williams Experience is coming to Canada.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.