This is the transcript of 49ers fourth-round pick Joe Williams’ conference call with Bay Area reporters, courtesy of the 49ers P.R. department.
How do you feel that you’ll fit in with the 49ers?
“I don’t think words do enough justice to describe how ecstatic I am. It was a journey to get here. This is a real world moment right now. I’m taking it in. Emotions are everywhere. I’m proud to be a part of this organization and I can’t wait to fly out there and get to work.”
Who did you meet with from the 49ers organization?
“At the combine, I sat down with a couple scouts, who were talking highly about [running backs] coach [Robert] Turner [Jr.]. And, after that it was really just me and coach Turner, making phone calls throughout the whole process leading up to today and building a relationship. That was about it.”
The last time you were here you ran for like over 200 yards in Utah’s win in the Foster Farms Bowl. Did that game really convince you that you were ready for the NFL?
“Say that again. You broke up a little bit.”
The last time you were out here was for the Foster Farms Bowl and you ran for over 200 yards. Did that game help convince you that you were ready for the NFL?
“It did. that was my last game with my boys in Utah and I was going through the whole sickness and everything with that game, but I knew that the NFL was right around the corner. So, I just wanted to put my best foot forward and just show the NFL that it’s my last game and this is what I can do for you guys if you spend a draft pick on me and I wanted to continue that.”
How much do you know about Bobby Turner’s history and the success he’s had with running backs and how exciting is that for you?
“It’s great. [Former Utah Utes assistant head coach and running backs] Coach [Dennis] Erickson who was my running back coach these past two years and he speaks highly of him and he’s told me great things. So, I honestly just can’t wait to come out there. I wish I could fly out there right now to finally meet him and just start to be under his wing and learn everything.”
What happened when you started your college career at UConn and how have you changed since then?
“I was just growing into a young man that my mom always envisioned, that my mom and dad always envisioned. I was kind of lost, went to UConn, especially after being from Fork Union, losing my structure from that military school and just not finding the right type of people. Understanding that mistakes can cost me and I made that mistake with the situation with my teammate’s credit card, but I learned from that and I continue to learn from my mistakes and just grow and mature. I can assure the 49ers organization and the fans that I’m a completely new person.”
Was that something that the Niners scouts spoke with you about?
“Yeah. Yes, of course. They knew I had the ability to run the football and catch the football and everything football-wise, but they wanted to know my character. And, to make sure if they were going to get me, that they had a young man who wanted to leave the past behind and mature. That’s what I laid out for them. I learned from my mistakes and you’re not going to get that same type of kid anymore.”
Did you have to convince NFL teams, and the 49ers in particular, that your heart is in playing football and are you committed to this sport? Are you passionate about the sport?
“Yes, I had to lay it out on the line that football is what I drink and breathe. That’s what I wake up for in the morning and that’s how I want to provide for my family. They knew that. At first, they wanted to understand why I could walk away from football, but after telling them my journey of how I came to be, I felt as though they were empathetic about it and they understood that sometimes you have to put something you love to do on hold to do what’s right.”
Can you explain to us, I mean obviously we don’t cover you and we are probably kind of catching up on your story, but why did you walk away from football?
“My sister had passed away in 2006 and pretty much, to put her story a little short, she actually died in my hands. It was, she died on Sunday, June 19th. She had been in and out of the hospital Friday to Saturday, and she had fell unconscious and after getting the autopsy reports, when I was taking care of her to and from her bed you know, that’s when she died in my hands. So, just the guilt and shame that I had put upon myself, because I didn’t act quickly enough for, you know, with my parents or to call 9-1-1. I always thought that it was my fault. Going throughout high school and college I was getting counseling, but I always tried to manipulate the system, because it was hard for me to feel an adolescent at the time, that when your baby sister died it wasn’t your fault when you weren’t there. So, I really didn’t want to eat and take their advice and mourn the way I needed to. So, just coming into this season, a lot of the emotions were coming to the forefront and I was trying to deal with them the best way I could. And as the season started and I knew that my mental health wasn’t where it needed to be, I knew that the best option for me was to sit down in front of my wife and my coaches and just tell them where I was at. And we came to the decision that stepping back at that time would be for my best interest, not only for football but life after football. And I was on them for weeks and I got psychiatric help to get my life back in order you know, because at that time I was in shambles, but I did a lot of soul searching. I got my sister’s tattoo on my left arm, went and saw her at her grave, which is something that I didn’t do you know, when I was actually at home in PA. So, I was just doing everything necessary to just finally come to that peace with her death. And the call came back after the Arizona game when a couple of running backs got hurt. And I knew I was good, because you know in some ways I had just so much more than what I did in 10 years. And above all that, I finally forgave myself. That was the biggest thing. And when I came back and you know and you guys will see the tape, I’m a completely different man.”
You mentioned something about a tattoo. I didn’t quite hear that, what’s the tattoo?
“It just says “My Sister’s Keeper” and it has her name Kylee and the date that she was born and the date that she passed away, and looking forward to finishing that tattoo, put her face on my shoulder. She was everything. She still is everything. She’s gone now and she’s just the chip on my shoulder that I use every day, gets me up out of the bed. It gets me to do, you know, focus on things that I’ve got to take care of in the next couple of days it will give me a jump start on my NFL career, to become the best running back I can be.”
You’re joining the roster as the seventh running back, what does that do to your mentality?
“All it just shows is that I’ve got a lot of work to do. First off, I’m a rookie, so I’m going to have to work for everything. And just like you said, I’m the seventh running back on the roster, so for me to be that starter and to take that starting job that I think [RB] Carlos Hyde has, I’m just going to come to work every day and just show the coaches and the guys that they can trust me in the game.”