Lions rookie linebacker Williams patiently waiting for 2020 CFL season

Lions rookie linebacker Williams patiently waiting for 2020 CFL season

Lions rookie linebacker Williams patiently waiting for 2020 CFL season

Jordan Williams isn’t allowing the COVID-19 pandemic to dampen his enthusiasm of starting his pro football career with the B.C. Lions.

The six-foot, 232-pound linebacker was the first player taken in last month’s CFL draft. Under normal circumstances, Williams would currently be in training camp learning the ropes under fist-year Lions head coach Rick Campbell.

But these are hardly normal circumstances.

Last week, CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie told season-ticket holders the league’s best-case scenario would be starting an abbreviated campaign in September, at the earliest. However, a cancelled season also remains a possibility.

Despite the precariousness of the 2020 season, the 25-year-old Williams is taking the approach of a proven veteran.

“I just take it one day at a time,” he said during a telephone interview Monday. “I try to control the controllables and don’t let external factors determine my mindset of the day.”

Then again, Williams has become well versed in the art of being patient.

Williams last played in a meaningful football game in 2017 at East Carolina University. That year, he finished second on the team in tackles with 89 — including three for a loss — with a forced fumble.

In 2018, Williams attended a rookie camp with the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers but didn’t make the team. Last year, Williams was poised to join the Ottawa Redblacks’ practice roster until the CFL learned his mother was Canadian.

Had Williams accepted the practice-roster invitation, he would’ve been registered with the CFL as an American and his status couldn’t have been reversed afterward. So Williams put his pro football aspirations on hold to pursue being deemed a Canadian and eligible for the 2020 draft.

Campbell was the head coach in Ottawa in 2019 and Williams believes that played a role in his being drafted by B.C.

“I’d probably say absolutely,” Williams said. “When I was in the locker room, I shook hands with Rick Campbell, looked him in the eye, gave him a firm handshake and all I said was, ’Hey, how you doing?’

“He looked me in the eye and gave me a firm handshake. I guess that’s all that was needed.”

These days, Williams said he’s following the training regimen established by Chris Boyko, B.C.’s strength-and-conditioning coach. And there’s also Zoom sessions with Lions officials.

“We’ve slowed down on training a little bit because you have to peak at a certain time,” Williams said. “You don’t want to peak (in training) right now … your peak time has to be near August-September.

“I’m basically training, eating, watching my weight and trying to be the best version of myself that I can be.”

Williams isn’t spending his free time watching hours of television or playing video games. He swore off TV after HBO’s “Game of Thrones” ended in 2019, feeling very disenchanted with the level of writing late in the series.

“The last two seasons weren’t good,” Williams said. “I’d watched the show for eight years, I’d watched (characters) grow up but that (writing) destroyed the show for me.

“I decided I was never going to let any TV show make me feel like that in my life so I stopped watching TV shows as a whole.”

But Williams did allow himself to watch The Last Dance, the 10-part documentary of the Chicago Bulls 1997-98 season, which culminated with the franchise’s sixth NBA title in eight years.

“I had to watch that,” Williams said with a chuckle. “It was a beautiful documentary.

“Other than that, I don’t do any video games, movies or anything like that. I just do research and try find ways to promote my image and I think that’s what is going to happen.”

Williams can’t wait for the start of training camp, whenever that might be.

“You get to show people how excited you are to be in a place like Vancouver, a beautiful city, and B.C. Place,” he said. “You get to strap on a helmet and make tackles.

“It might take a week or so to get back into football shape and after that it should be smooth sailing.”

And whenever his rookie season begins, Williams said he won’t be thinking about the pressure that might come for a player drafted first overall.

“I think when you put unneeded pressure on yourself, you start doing too much,” he said. “I just take it like I’m a regular guy and I’m going to play my style of football and not allow (outside) factors determine how I’ll play.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2020.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press