By admission, Grambling quarterback Johnathan Williams isn’t much of a talker.
“That’s just never been me,” the chuckling redshirt junior said. “I always felt it was better to just show than talk.”
So showing was his goal.
Entering the season as a backup behind his senior roommate D.J. Williams and redshirt freshman Stephen Johnson after a competitive spring, Johnathan Williams set out to take the games in from afar, imparting any advice or tendencies he saw from the sideline to his counterparts.
He’d often reach them on the sideline before Grambling offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Eric Dooley had the chance, a strategy he hoped would resonate with his peers.
“Hearing it from one of your teammates is different from hearing it from one of your coaches,” Johnathan Williams said. “We’ve been there throughout practice with you, we know each other a little bit better than the coaches would. A little extra boost, a little extra confidence.”
It’s a confidence that manifests from a tight-knit quarterback room, where the trio work to better one another on the resurgent Grambling squad in search of a Southwestern Athletic Conference Western Division title against Southern in the Bayou Classic on Saturday.
Johnathan Williams began the season behind D.J. Williams and Johnson as the duo split time in Grambling’s first five games before taking the reins against Prairie View A&M on Sept. 27, where he threw for 250 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 92 more, spearheading a 26-20 win at the State Fair Classic.
“It just happened to be my time to get in and pick up the slack for what had taken place in the season and the games,” Johnathan Williams said.
Dooley marveled at Johnathan Williams’ football I.Q., a trait all three quarterbacks share and make his day-to-day duties much easier. Managing an entire offense, Dooley doesn’t have as much time as he’d like to focus specifically on his quarterbacks. Now, he can count on that specialized attention from other sources.
“Those guys can be a little bit more detailed and straightforward because that’s all they’re looking at. That’s very pleasant to coach,” Dooley said. “(They’re) very self-motivated. We work so close together and spend so much time together that it’s like an extension of myself on the field.”
Dooley, who came to Grambling this season after three seasons as Arkansas Pine-Bluff’s offensive coordinator, already had an impression of Johnathan Williams before coming to school.
He recalled their meeting last season, a game in which Johnathan Williams rushed for two touchdowns and tossed another, netting over 300 yards of total offense in a narrow 45-42 Grambling loss.
Though he’s quick not to define himself as a dual-threat quarterback, Johnathan Williams’ mobility in the pocket is a luxury for both Dooley and Grambling coach Broderick Fobbs. Though he’s only seen action in seven games, Johnathan Williams leads the team in rushing, has seven of Grambling’s 19 rushing touchdowns and 13 of 19 passing touchdowns.
Dooley credited the Grambling running backs as the main source of the Tigers running attack, but he couldn’t overlook his quarterback’s elusiveness and running ability, though the coaching staff sees his arm as more dangerous for opponents.
Johnathan Williams has now taken control of the offense he worked so hard to perfect, and he’s reached goals alongside his two friends now acting in the same mentoring capacity he held at the beginning of the season.
“Our quarterback room did the same thing for me that I did for them when I was on the sidelines,” Johnathan Williams said.
As for any more long-term goals, Johnathan Williams echoed the same sentiments as both Fobbs and Dooley.
“Keep pushing forward, keep progressing,” he said. “Stay humble and stay hungry.”