GREEN BAY – While Dexter Williams hadn’t the slightest clue where he’d end up in the NFL Draft, his hair seemed destined for Green Bay from the beginning.
The Packers rookie running back started dying the back of his head green at the University of Notre Dame. In preparation for the draft, Williams was resigned to the fact he’d probably have to change the color scheme to match whichever team selected him.
But alas, that wouldn’t be necessary after the Packers drafted Williams in the sixth round (194th overall), only the fourth time Green Bay has taken a college’s lead running back in the last six drafts.
“I was prepared to match it (to my new team),” said Williams with a laugh during rookie camp. “It’s now Packer Green.”
Williams amassed 1,128 total yards with 13 touchdowns on 174 touches in nine games for Notre Dame last season after serving a four-game suspension for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
He understood the suspension and a 2016 marijuana arrest were topics he’d have to frequently revisit with teams during the pre-draft process. It’s his belief those incidents made him “into the man I am today.” Buoyed by the strength of his mother Cheryl, Williams is ready to move forward and focus on his next chapter in the NFL.
Viewed as a readymade fit for the outside-zone blocking scheme the Packers plan to employ under Head Coach Matt LaFleur, Williams was lauded by scouts for his size, durability, stringent ball security, and a nose for the end zone (20 touchdowns on 257 collegiate carries).
He now joins a backfield in Green Bay with a pair of established runners in Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, and two other veterans, Kapri Bibbs and Danny Vitale, with NFL experience.
The Packers have been in the market for a third backfield option for some time, particularly a north-and-south back like the Fighting Irish’s Williams who runs with power in his pads.
Williams sells himself as an open book. He’s all ears whether it’s taking cues from the veterans ahead of him on the depth chart or new position coach Ben Sirmans.
“I’m willing to take in as much information as possible,” Williams said. “I want to learn from the older guys – whoever can teach me to help me elevate my game. I just want to be able to elevate, no matter what, in all things – special teams, offense, running back.”
Williams has had his sights set on the NFL for as long as he can remember. After being the only freshman to make varsity at Olympia High School in Orlando, Williams began to wonder if he might have a legitimate shot at college and the pro ranks.
He played as a true freshman at Notre Dame but had to wait three full seasons to start in the Irish backfield. Once he got that chance, Williams didn’t disappoint. He rushed for at least 100 yards in four of his nine games as a senior, including a 178-yard, three-TD performance against Virginia Tech on Oct. 6.
In that game, Williams established a new Lane Stadium record when he broke free for a 97-yard touchdown against the Hokies in the third quarter of an eventual 45-23 Irish victory. It was the second longest in Notre Dame history to only Josh Adams’ 98-yarder in 2015.
Williams said he spoke with Green Bay at the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine. While the Packers went radio silent leading up to the draft, they finally called midway through Day 3 to let Williams know he was their guy.
“I feel like it was meant to be. I feel like this is the perfect place for me,” Williams said. “Offense-wise, it’s similar to what we were running in the Senior Bowl, so a lot of things I’m comfortable with. I’m still learning, still going over a lot of the plays with my running back coach and taking time with the other running backs to go over the plays with them.”
After a college career with its share of peaks and valleys, Williams says he won’t take this opportunity for granted. He wants to earn respect – from both his teammates and coaches.
“It definitely makes me appreciate everything,” said Williams of his journey. “I didn’t know all of this was going to happen. If you asked me a couple years ago, would Dexter be here at the Green Bay Packers? I probably wouldn’t have even answered your question. But to see how everything unfolds and to see all the hard work pay off … I’m just so blessed to be here.”