Ishaq Williams’s football career nearly ended in disgrace.
The former Abraham Lincoln and Notre Dame defensive lineman had to sit out his senior season in South Bend last year after being one of five players suspended from the team for alleged academic fraud. Williams was already around 270 pounds after bulking up in the offseason, according to former Lincoln coach Shawn O’Connor, and his weight ballooned while he was navigating the appeals process.
He could have never played football again after that, and no one would have thought twice about him — just another over-hyped high-school All-American who didn’t make it.
Williams refused to be that guy.
“He never blamed anybody [else],” O’Connor said. “He took the consequences. He didn’t take it as a negative.”
The 23-year-old Williams continued to work out at Notre Dame, trimmed down his 6-foot-4 frame to 253 pounds, and made the most of his long-shot tryout with the Giants at its rookie mini-camp last weekend. Giants officials were so impressed that they extended him a three-year contract, which he signed on May 9.
“Dreams really do come true, and hard work pays off,” Williams posted on his Instagram account on Saturday. “I’m thankful that the Giants organization believed in me and can’t wait to show them they made a great decision.”
Anyone who knows Williams and his game already knows that to be the case. O’Connor could sense a familiar hunger in Williams, one the lineman displayed before the junior season that catapulted him up the recruiting board. Williams didn’t want to be remembered as a failure after four tough years at Notre Dame that never saw him live up to his promise. The last time he played for the Fighting Irish was 2013.
“His thought process was that he had something to prove, because he felt he was a good player and not getting to fulfill all that hype coming out of high school, missing out on his senior year,” the coach said.
The pass-heavy National Football League might just be better-suited for Williams’s versatile game. He is a natural pass-rusher, who will have even more opportunities to get to the quarterback. His slimmed-down frame and athletic ability make him far from a liability if he fails to get there.
“He brings lot to the table, because he is a guy who can rush the passer, and he is also a guy who can drop [back in coverage],” O’Connor said. “He’s not your typical defensive lineman. He’s got a lot of things he can do.”
He showed the Giants all that and more, and now he will get the opportunity do it in front of the rest of the world on Sundays for his hometown Big Blue. His former coach plans a celebration with Williams now that he is back in training.
“Now I’ll take him out to eat, because there is a lot less food to eat,” O’Connor said. “The next one he will treat me hopefully — his next contract hopefully.”
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