UNLV running back Charles Williams Jr. has been setting records since the minute he set foot on a high school football field. While he respects the accolades, they’re merely a sideshow to the main goal of playing in the NFL. Behind the numbers and statistics, he knows that he has the talent to fulfill a childhood dream, beginning in the 2022 NFL Draft. In doing so, he hopes to pave a path for future generations while providing for his daughter.
Charles Williams Jr. is hungry for success in the 2022 NFL Draft
“I feel like this year, I have the best opportunity,” Williams explains during a recent sit down with Pro Football Network. “I’ve shown I can catch out of the backfield. I’ve shown I can ID in pass pro, step up and keep the QB safe. Shown I can run the ball 10 times, 40 times in a game. Shown I can be explosive, go for big runs. I’ve shown I can be that back who gets it done on fourth downs.
“I’m a weapon who can be utilized in many different ways. Special teams is a way to get your foot in the door, and I’m willing to do anything to make a team. If you want me to be a gunner, be on punt block, kickoff return. I’ll even hold the field goals for you, that’s how hungry I am. I know how hard it is to make a team, you have to give them a reason to keep you.”
The UNLV running back hopes to be the first Rebels player drafted since 2010. However, his hunger stems from more than that. He wants to break new ground for a family that cultivated a love for football in his native Fresno. Williams wants to show that anything is possible if you work hard enough to achieve it.
Family fuels Williams’ football journey from start to the NFL Draft
“Not too many people in our family get the opportunity to play Division I football or be in the NFL. I’m just trying to be a part of something that’s setting a tradition or starting something where the next generation gets a hold of ‘I can be in the NFL, or I can go as far as so and so in our family.'”
Growing up in Fresno, Williams’ father provided the football inspiration at a young age. It was his dream to one day play in the NFL. What started as a love of the game as a child has grown into something that he hopes will set a tradition as well as provide a future for his own daughter.
“My daughter is my twin, my other half. I do everything to make sure she’s ok, and I do everything in my power to make sure she has an easier life. Football is a stepping stone to making it easier for her. I feel like everything is going to be great for her, she’s going to have a great support system, and her daddy is always going to be there for her.”
Williams’ impeccable work ethic from a young age
As a child, Williams’ love of the game developed watching Adrian Peterson, LaDainian Tomlinson, and LeSean McCoy. He fell in love with Peterson’s violent and elusive running style, and he worked to model his game around the former Minnesota Vikings legend. The hunger he displays now as he heads to the 2022 NFL Draft began with a disciplined approach to developing himself as a running back, even at that young age.
“The main goal was to get to the NFL,” Williams reflects. “I knew it was going to take a lot of hard work and sometimes avoiding hanging out or going out with my friends. Instead of doing that, doing drills, working on my feet, getting better as a running back. I spent most of my time and efforts trying to get better at the position.”
As he progressed into football at Bullard High School, his commitment to getting better on the football field extended to other athletic achievements. A 200m sprint champion for Bullard, Williams appreciated how that could help improve his performance as a running back.
“It helps with your top-end speed and breakaway speed. Also, it conditions you to be able to stay on the field longer. In my opinion, I feel like people need to take track more seriously in high school because it helps with some of the stuff you learn in college or the pros or training like I’m doing right now.”
Making an impact on the field for Bullard High School
During his two-year starting career for Bullard, Williams made a significant impact on the football field. While rushing for 3,580 yards, he was twice named the Metro Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year. Meanwhile, in a sign of things to come, he tied the school record for career touchdowns, finding the end zone 48 times. The success wasn’t easy to come by, however.
“At Bullard, people didn’t exactly doubt me, but they didn’t think I could play running back. Once I got on the field and showed what I could do, I never looked back and took advantage of every opportunity, every carry, every play that I got. I was fourth string on the depth chart. It’s kinda crazy, you put yourself in a situation where you don’t think you can do something, but you can either quit or keep going.”
Quit isn’t a word in Williams’ dictionary. Even when a slow start to his high school career had a knock-on effect on his college recruiting, he kept on working, kept on believing. One game of his high school career gave him the belief that he could achieve great things.
“It was the game against Clovis West in my junior year when I went for over 280 yards. I just knew that I had something unique or special about me that can be taken to the next level. I just gotta keep grinding and keep going harder. That whole season helped me out. That’s when I started getting offers. My senior season, I took it to the next level.”
Early success at UNLV is followed by a taste of adversity
Although his recruiting process didn’t flourish until late, Williams was still a three-star recruit who attracted Power Five attention from Washington State. Despite this, the opportunity to play as a true freshman while remaining close enough to home for family to attend his games proved too tempting for the young RB.
Success came early and often. In his debut, Williams ran for 96 yards and a touchdown. With 763 rushing yards in 2016, he set the UNLV rushing record for a true freshman. While admitting that records and accolades don’t mean too much to him, it gave him confidence. However, that confidence would be tested at the beginning of the 2017 season.
“I was running a little high because I was playing lackadaisical, didn’t take the team we were playing too seriously. The safety tackled me and I tore the medial and deltoid in my ankle. So, had to get surgery after the game.
“It was very difficult for somebody like me who’d only missed one game going into that point. Very difficult, a lot of stress on the mental. I can say I had the right people in my corner. Honestly, there was a lot of people in my corner who kept me level-headed. I was close to saying, ‘oh man, I don’t know if I can ever be the same.’ But I kept pushing, kept rehabbing, and didn’t take any days for granted.”
Williams rebounds to lead UNLV in rushing yards for three consecutive years
Williams lost his 2017 season to injury, and 2018 was spent fighting to recover his spot on the team. It taught him that nothing is guaranteed in the sport and that everything is earned not given. The UNLV RB took that attitude and ran with it, and in 2019, surpassed 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his career.
Furthermore, he became just the fourth UNLV running back to earn first-team All-Mountain West honors. While entering the NFL Draft entered his mind at the end of the 2019 season, he knew it was just “one good year” — he had more to prove. The disruption of the 2020 season deprived him of that opportunity, so he returned to the program once more in 2021 with a landmark record in his sight.
“It wasn’t a goal I was trying to achieve,” Williams says of the program rushing record that he achieved this season. “But, it was a landmark or a stepping stone to if I’m doing what I’m supposed to do or if I’m doing enough to help the team win.”
With 1,256 rushing yards this season, Williams set the program record for rushing yards. More importantly to him, he helped the team achieve their first wins since 2019. He compares the feeling of the first win to being a freshman again. The way he praises the team’s resilience in the face of scrutiny is a perfect metaphor for his own football journey.
Hula Bowl allows Williams to impress in front of NFL scouts
Following his impressive 2021 performances, Williams had the opportunity to showcase his talents in front of NFL decision-makers at the 2022 Hula Bowl. Having impressed during the week of practices, the UNLV RB snapped off a big run during the game to further demonstrate his potential at the next level.
“It was pretty good, the scouts were able to see me in person. The game I had, it showed that I am able to do the stuff that many people say I can’t do. I’m ready to perform at the next level and get better each day. I’m not perfect, I know that. I just want to be the best impact to help whatever team picks me to win the Super Bowl.”
Williams knows that football doesn’t last forever. He lists the proudest achievement of his UNLV career as the degree he earned in 2020. He also tells me that making his parents proud as a smart young man is important to him. However, he also knows that an investment in him in the 2022 NFL Draft will be a smart one for an NFL team. The dream that started in Fresno is within reach for the UNLV running back.
“I’ve shown everything that I’m supposed to show, gotten better over the years. I’ve played against the best competition. I’m willing to do anything to get on the field. I’m willing to do whatever is needed for the team that wants me the best.”