Sports | January 11, 2023 2:20 pm

Anime “Nerd” Jamaal Williams Is NFL’s NFC Offensive Player of the Week

Williams led the NFL with 17 rushing touchdowns this season

Jamaal Williams smiles after the Lions beat the Bears on January 1.
Jamaal Williams is not your typical NFL player.
Mike Mulholland/Getty

On Sunday night after the Detroit Lions knocked off the Green Bay Packers to send the Seattle Seahawks to Super Wild Card Weekend, America got a little taste of the running contradiction that is Jamaal Williams.

A running back out of BYU who spent four seasons with the Packers before spending his last two pro seasons with Detroit, Williams was asked to do the postgame interview after rushing for 72 yards and two second-half touchdowns as the Lions snatched a 20-16 victory out of the jaws of defeat to end Green Bay’s season.

Williams, who led the NFL with 17 rushing touchdowns this season and also broke the single-season TD record for Detroit that had been held by Barry Sanders, did not disappoint.

Afterward, in recognition of his efforts and possibly Williams’s stellar postgame remarks, the NFL named him the NFC offensive player of the week.

Those who were surprised by the 27-year-old doing something other than spouting standard platitudes likely didn’t see his pregame introduction, in which declined to simply state his name, position and the college that he attended and played for. Instead, a headband-clad Williams called himself the “First Swagg Kazekage” in reference to characters in the anime Naruto.

Referencing anime and wearing headbands is old hat to Williams as he has been fairly outspoken about how much he enjoys the Japanese cartoon style and its characters. Speaking to The Athletic in 2021 after he signed with the Lions, Williams said all he needs in his life are his daughter, video games, football and anime.

“It’s crazy. I just love it. It’s a great way of keeping me loose, happy. I like being a nerd for anime,” he said. “It gives me a good motivation to keep pushing, keep fighting for what I believe in, and keep upgrading. You can never stop upgrading. Shoot, Goku been upgrading since I was a kid, since I was in the womb. For me, it baffles me. People got so much creativity in their minds that they can make, whatever, a thousand episodes for one show. I like things like that. And I like being a ninja. It’s fun.”

While we wouldn’t typically refer to Wikipedia for personal information, the entry about Williams’s personal life is worth a read: “Williams has a daughter named Kalea. He is a self-described ‘nerd’ for anime, video games, and cosplay. He particularly prefers One Punch ManDragon Ball Z, and Naruto. After a game on January 1, 2023, Williams wore a Naruto headband and shirt while giving interviews to reporters, and said that he wanted to go home to play Pokémon Scarlet. During the Sunday Night Football game against the Packers on January 8, 2023, Williams wore a different Naruto headband and introduced himself as ‘First Swagg Kazekage, leader of the hidden village of the den’, a reference to the anime, drawing immediate reactions on social media.”

Williams, who surpassed 1,000 yards (1,066) for the first time in his six-year career, is a free agent. He’ll be a steal at any price.