No one has done more with their opportunities this season than Clemson’s E.J. Williams.
A reserve receiver for the Tigers, Williams has taken his opportunities and has run with them, especially in last week’s ACC Championship Game against Notre Dame. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound true freshman caught four passes for 80 yards in Clemson’s 34-10 victory, including a 33-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown.
However, his 33-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter was not his best play of the game.
On third-and-nine from the Clemson 18-yard line with 5:40 to play in the third quarter, Williams made a circus like one-handed catch that had everyone on social media going crazy.
“I went through my Instagram and Twitter and it was all flooded with OBJ (Odell Beckham) and (Justyn) Ross,” Williams said. “It was a good feeling to be compared to guys like that, they are good players. It is always a good feeling to be able to make a one-handed catch in a high-level game like that.”
Williams twisted his body and reached out with his right arm to snag Trevor Lawrence’s pass to the near sideline. The more impressive part of the 22-yard catch was the fact he got both feet down, while maintaining control of the ball as he hit the ground.
“I feel like I need to do the most with every opportunity I get, as in every time I have to make a key block on a play or if they throw me the ball,” Williams said. “I have the mindset that it is mine when it is in the air.
“I am always being hundred confident in myself and my abilities.”
The freshman said Ross was hyped about his catch, a play that was very reminiscent of Ross’ one-handed catches in the 2019 National Championship Game against Alabama.
“He already knew it was in me, but it is a thing that we have been doing. It is nothing new,” Williams said.
Williams’ and Ross’ friendship goes back to Central High School in Phenix City, Ala., when they were teammates. When Ross was a senior there, Williams was a sophomore who looked up to Ross and studied his every move.
“I learned a lot from him when I was in the tenth grade and was a younger receiver. I just tried to do everything he did,” Williams said. “I watched him run his routes and things like that and really just studied it and took it and ran with it on my own.”
Playing within himself, Williams’ confidence has slowly climbed to where now he is a guy Lawrence looks for in key situations. He also caught a 15-yard pass from Lawrence on a third-and-nine play on the Tigers’ opening drive of the game.
“I will probably say after the Miami game, I felt a lot more confident in myself and my ability in what I could do and that I could contribute to the team,” Williams said. “But it does not start with me. It is the fact the coaches are starting to believe in me more by what I do in practice.”
Of course, the main coach who believes in him is new wide receivers’ coach Tyler Grisham. With Grisham’s coaching, Williams has come on to catch 19 passes for 261 yards and two scores.
“It is an everything day with Coach Grisham. Every day he wants to see you improve,” Williams said. “He is not going to settle, not going to let you get by doing the bare minimum. He wants you to always focus on the little things. He is a great person and a great influencer to look up to also.”
Williams and the Tigers will try to keep it going when No. 2 Clemson faces No. 3 Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl as part of the College Football Playoff on New Year’s Day.