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'Magnanimous personality' in Jamaal Williams returns to Green Bay Monday night

New Lions RB garners unlimited love and respect from former teammates

Detroit Lions RB Jamaal Williams
Detroit Lions RB Jamaal Williams

GREEN BAY – No matter where he is, Jamaal Williams is going to do his thing.

So when the former Packers running back returns to Lambeau Field on Monday night with the Detroit Lions, he'll probably resume his games of catch with the Green Bay fans, tossing a football back and forth during pregame warmups.

He'll most definitely be dancing with his headphones on as he strolls around the field a few hours before kickoff.

But if he scores a touchdown, will he do a Lambeau Leap?

"I might, honestly," Williams told reporters in Detroit this week. "I might just jump into some Lions fans."

As long as it's not a game-winning touchdown, there's a good chance the Packers fans would still embrace Williams.

As outgoing and fun-loving as any player to come through Green Bay in recent years, Williams arrived as a fourth-round draft pick in 2017 to form a 1-2 punch in the backfield with Aaron Jones for four seasons.

In those four years, he racked up nearly 3,000 yards from scrimmage (1,985 rushing, 961 receiving), scored 18 touchdowns (10, 8), and never once fumbled the ball in well over 600 touches.

He also became best friends with Jones, as the two were either roommates or neighbors – even their lockers were side by side – since being chosen in the same '17 draft. They took pride in both supporting and competing with one another every step of the way.

"We became brothers over that time," Jones said. "He's been there for me through a lot and just helped me develop as a player, helped me develop my game and pushed me. That's something we would do every time we stepped on the field is try to push each other.

"It's going to be a little different. Seeing him in a blue jersey will just be different."

In the offseason, the Packers signed Jones to a large contract and let Williams leave as a free agent with 2020 second-round pick AJ Dillon waiting to step in as the Green Bay's new No. 2.

Now paired with De'Andre Swift to form the Lions' running back tandem, Williams resumed his reliably productive ways in his first game with Detroit last week. He got his hands on the ball 17 times, scored a TD, and compiled 110 yards from scrimmage (9-54 rushing, 8-56 receiving) in the Lions' 41-33 loss to the 49ers.

"It's the same old Jamaal that you saw when he was playing for us," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "I'm sure he'll be fired up to come in here and play."

Added outside linebacker Preston Smith: "We know what to expect when we see Jamaal. He's going to play hard each and every play. He's going to give his all each and every chance he can get."

The Packers certainly respect the way he plays, but even more so they love him as a friend and former teammate – a guy who always had a smile on his face and could brighten any room or lighten any mood, whatever was required.

"He's such a special, special guy," said quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has stayed in touch with Williams. "One of those guys, there's a gaping hole in certain areas when you lose a guy like that. You can't just fill it up with one person – his magnanimous personality."

Detroit fans were quickly introduced to it this spring when, in one of Williams' first media sessions with his new team, two reporters tried asking a question at the same time and Williams made them play rock-paper-scissors to see who would go first.

It happened again this past week while talking about his return to Green Bay, and he required a best-of-three, laughing and smiling the whole time.

That's Williams, who downplayed any extra juice or revenge factor in facing the team that let him go, but who will take his job no less seriously come Monday night.

"I'm excited to play," he said. "It'll be great to see my boys, teammates that I've just grown to love over the years. But this is different. I'm on the other side, so I gotta go out there and play for my Lions first.

"Then after the game we can chit-chat."