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Inside Lions WR Jameson Williams’ free youth football camp in Detroit

Described as his ‘happy place’ by his mother, Lions’ WR Jameson Williams hosted a free football camp on the city’s eastside.

When he was first selected 12th overall in the 2021 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions, there were some fans out there that were concerned over the lack of smiles coming from University of Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams. Why wasn’t he smiling? Is he not happy to be in Detroit? Both of those noitions are obviously completely ridiculous, but still—they were out there.

Fast forward to a rainy, gloomy Saturday morning in July, and Williams is all smiles, as the Jameson Williams Foundation put on its inaugural youth football camp at Chandler Park Academy in Harper Woods, Michigan. The camp was free to the public, with the first session being third to sixth grade, and the second catered to kids between seventh and 12th grade.

Arriving shortly before 10 a.m. ET, I was leaning against a fence near the field when I saw Williams pull up—walking with a little extra pep in his step, seemingly eager to get to the field. As soon as the camp began and the kids were split into position groups for individual work, that’s where Williams really began to shine. Dapping up everyone, getting to know their names, and getting really, really excited when one of his receivers made a nice play.

“This is his happy place,” said Williams’ mother, Tianna, of his passion for working with the youth. “Getting him to do anything else is like pulling teeth.” Mrs. Williams would go on to describe Jameson as “someone who doesn’t do too much,” apart from football, and going out to eat.

Tianna would also point out some of Williams’ friends helping with the camp, many of whom he met during his time at Ohio State. His younger brother, Jaden ‘Slim’ Williams who is attending Wayne State University, former running back Marcus Crowley, University of Kansas linebacker Craig Young, D.J. Miller of Kent State, JK Johnson of LSU, and Pete Luton—who runs Tight End University in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Also, big shoutout to Chandler Park High School football coach, Marlon Baker, for making things happen after a late venue switch forced a pivot away from East English Village high school.

As the camp wore on, the competitive juices got going—particularly between Jameson and Jaden, with the two keeping count of wins and losses as their respective wide receivers and cornerbacks went through one-on-ones. Upon seeing this between the two youngest Williams siblings, I thought of something their mother said earlier.

“Every one of my kids is a two-sport athlete, and they’re all competitive” said Tianna of her four children—three of whom were in attendance for the camp. “They would race to the dinner table, and Jameson always had to win.”

That is one thing that really stuck out—how tight the Williams family is and how strong Jameson’s support system is.

Has Williams made mistakes? Sure. He will miss the first six games of the Lions’ 2023 season as he serves his suspension for gambling on non-NFL games while at the facility. The circumstances are annoying, and the rules surrounding all of this for NFL players are convoluted, but the league has made it clear it will not be swayed.

However, some of these other instances that people are making a big deal out of are just plain silly. Like when video surfaced of Williams getting some food from L George’s Coney Island on the city’s westside, some were wondering if it was smart of Williams to be out in the city late at night.

“That situation, I was just trying to get some food,” said Williams of his late-night Coney run. “I heard that was the best food in the city. I probably got a breakfast sandwich. It was one of those nights. I get the same thing every time. But yeah that wasn’t nothing besides getting some food.”

I get it, Jamo. Who doesn’t love a nice bacon, egg, and cheese? Could be 4 a.m. or 4 p.m.—they always hit the spot.

Can we not fault a 22-year-old for wanting some late night grub? Also, I want to say something about our beloved city. While Detroit is an elite food city, we do severely lack late-night options, and it is kind of baffling. So if it’s past 10:30 p.m., you better believe I am making my way to Zorba’s for some corned beef or a pita. If you know, you know. Shoutout Icewear Vezzo.

After the first session of the camp concluded, Williams took the time to take pictures, and talk to the campers. It was rainy and fairly chaotic, but Williams appeared to be at peace—signing everything from casts to t-shirts, and making sure to pull his chain out of his t-shirt when it was picture time.

“It feels great, especially being down here in the city,” said Williams. “I just wanted to get out and get connected with the city in a different way. My way. I play football and wanted to offer a free camp for the kids. It was really just me getting in tune with the city, giving back to the community and things like that, so this is my happy place—being out here around football. I was once going to camps like this. I went to a Marshall Faulk camp growing up, ya know he played for the Rams. It’s just something I saw as a youngin’, now it’s my turn to do it.”

Williams would go on to mention that he is back to 185 pounds—which was his pre-surgery weight. And when asked if he had anything that would surprise or shock fans headed into his second season?

“I wouldn’t say they would be surprised,” said Williams. “This has been something I been doing my whole life. I been playing football the same way since I was five years old, since I was their age out here. I been doing it. It will probably be surprising to them, but it’s stuff I’m expecting.”

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