Josh Williams wasn’t a household name in Baton Rouge when he committed to LSU in 2019.
He was a two-star recruit from The Kincaid School in Houston, with only a handful of offers from smaller programs like Dayton, Drake and Stetson. So he decided to bet on himself and sign as a walk-on for the Tigers.
The 5-foot-9, 190-pound running back stepped on campus the same year LSU signed five-star tailback John Emery Jr. and four-star runner Tyrion Davis-Price, and one year after it landed four-star bruiser Chris Curry.
Needless to say, not many people expected to see No. 27 carrying the ball much for the Tigers—except maybe Williams himself.
“I always wanted to come [to LSU],” says Williams, who grew up watching the Tigers from his Houston home. “I love LSU football, and my family loves it. This is where I saw myself playing, and I wanted to come earn a scholarship here.”
It only took about a year, and that’s exactly what Williams did.
After the final scrimmage on the last day of the 2020 fall camp, head coach Ed Orgeron called Williams to the middle of the locker room in front of the team and told him he would be one of three new players put on scholarship.
Williams’ teammates doused him with water in celebration, and his family immediately drove into town from Houston to savor the moment.
But Williams didn’t want his story to end there.
He continued to work in the background before getting his first game action in LSU’s 41-7 win against Vanderbilt. He got a pair of carries in the Tigers’ thrilling upset against Florida, but it was Williams’ showing in the season finale against Ole Miss that finally turned some heads.
He finished the day as LSU’s leading rusher, carrying the ball 12 times for 55 yards (a solid 4.6 yard average), highlighted by an impressive 30-yard scamper that nearly ended in the endzone.
“It meant a lot,” Williams says, reflecting on his journey. “It means that hard work does pay off, and if you want something, you have to put your all into it. If I want to keep going forward in football, I have to keep working hard. So that’s what I’m doing.”
It’s hard to bet against Williams at this point. He’s worked his way from an unknown walk-on to the team’s leading rusher against an SEC rival.
He’s done it all while maintaining “around a 3.4 or 3.5” GPA as a business major, which landed him on the SEC Academic Honor Roll.
As disappointing as LSU’s 2020 season was overall, Williams was one of the bright spots. And his story points toward a promising future for the Tigers.
This article was originally published in the April 2021 issue of 225 magazine.