Marcus Williams isn't quite sure what he'll do with that extra free time he'll have during his third NFL season.

The past two seasons kept the Saints' safety quite busy.

He'd get home from practice around 5:00.

Grab a bite to eat.

Watch game film.

Do homework.

Then watch film some more.

But now, Williams can remove the homework part from his nightly to-do list.

Those days of juggling school books and the playbook are finally over.

He received his degree in sociology from the University of Utah on Friday. 

"I always want to finish what I start," Williams said. "I started this process in 2014 and I wasn't going to just let all that hard work go to waste. It was about letting my mom and my dad see me accomplish the goal. It's for them, but it's for me as well. I want other people to be able to look up to me and say 'he's in the NFL, but that's not all he is. He's still trying to better himself and not just be an athlete.' That's not me. If I start it, I'm going to finish it."

So now Williams can check another one of his goals off his list. He has now played two seasons in the NFL while at the same time putting in the work for his college degree. Not bad considering he's only 22 years old. He doesn't turn 23 until Sept. 8, the day before the Saints' season opener against the Houston Texans. He took four online college courses during each of his first two seasons in the NFL.

"It wasn't too tough," Williams said. "Well, it was tough, but I went through it my whole college career balancing academics and sports. It's just something you have to be willing to take on with a full head of steam."

Williams, who spent three seasons at Utah before turning pro after his junior season, started as a civil engineering major. He switched to sociology because it will allow him to follow his passion of working with children once his playing days are over. 

"I want to go back and impact the youth and be a mentor or guidance counselor or something where kids can come to me and I can give them my experience and tell them about life," Williams said. "A lot of people don't have that person they can go to, but that's who I am: a motivator, an inspirer and somebody who will listen. I'm not going to sugarcoat it for the kids. I'm going to give them all the information they need to be successful and not go down the wrong path."

But Williams won't wait to start giving back. He'll hold his annual camp on June 22 at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Eastvale, California. There were 250 kids at last year's camp. This year's camp has 440 kids registered.

"Marcus has always just had a love for encouraging and empowering kids," said Franschell Williams, Marcus' mom who helps organize the camp.

Francschell and Sly Williams preached the importance of education to their four sons. Marcus fulfilled his promise to his parents and became the fourth of the brothers to earn his degree.

He compared walking across the stage on Friday to a similar big night in his life two years ago.

"It kinda reminded me of what draft day was like," said Williams, who the Saints chose in the second round in 2017. "You accomplish that step and then want to do something greater. To see my mom cry again meant so much. You know you're making your family proud because they stressed education so much. That's why I stuck with the plan. I declared for the draft early, but I didn't quit on my education."

Now Williams is eyeing his next goal.

This one is on the football field.

"It's a new season, time for us to get over our hump and get to the Super Bowl," Williams said.

Sean Payton said in March that the safety position (Williams and Vonn Bell) is one of the ones he's looking forward to seeing this season.

"With those two guys, (I'm) encouraged with the direction we are going there," Payton said.

Williams recorded 59 tackles and had two interceptions last season. That was a dropoff from his rookie season when he had 73 tackles and four interceptions.

As far as stats and accolades, Williams prefers keeping his personal goals to himself.

"The main thing is just staying on the back end and being a leader back there," he said. "Just do whatever I can do to help the team. I know in my mind I'll achieve those goals as long as I stay focused and stay on my path."

And it's that mindset that helped lead him across the stage in Salt Lake City on Friday. He took his last exam the day before on Thursday.

"It was a relief," Williams said. "Finally, it's over. I can relax."


Follow Rod Walker on Twitter, @rwalkeradvocate.