The jersey No. 12 has no special significance to Virginia Tech defensive tackle Jordan Williams. He didn’t choose it to honor Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers or Ryan Blaney.
He chose it because it’s different. After wearing No. 59 his entire playing career, Williams felt it was time to switch it up.
That’s one of myriad changes over the past eight months for Williams, who transferred in from Clemson in January. He’s dropped 27 pounds since arriving in Blacksburg and now carries 290 pounds on his 6-foot-1 frame. He’s learned a new scheme, bonded with new teammates and emerged as a vocal leader at his new school.
Through it all, Williams has realized something: He’s exactly where he wants to be.
“Every time I talk or interact with people, they all tell me, ‘Welcome home,’” said Williams, who prepped at Cox High School in Virginia Beach. “You just have to really realize that Virginia Tech is home. If you’re a Virginia guy — if you’re [from area code] 757, 804, 540 — Virginia Tech is really home.
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“I just really have that feeling, just being on campus, being out in the community, being around these guys. There’s no shortage of Virginia players in the locker room.”
The excitement surrounding Williams is legit. Not only does he bring four years of experience from one of the nation’s premier programs, but he also has the personality to be a front man for the Hokies.
Williams, who earned his degree in communications from Clemson in December, aspires to get into broadcasting someday. He’s at ease in front of the cameras and communicates well with peers and coaches.
“He’s a very good player,” Tech coach Justin Fuente said. “But he’s done an even better job of fitting in. I’ve been really, really pleased with his ability to assimilate with the other guys and not come in there and big-dog them.
“We always knew he was a good kid. I hoped he would be comfortable with us, but I really didn’t know for sure. He’s done a fantastic job. He’s just got such a great maturity and intelligence level.”
Nobody asked Williams to lose the weight. He did that on his own, with the blessing of Tech’s coaches, by changing his diet. The move has made him faster, he says, without sacrificing any of his physicality against the run.
Learning the scheme wasn’t an issue for him. He’s the type who watches film on his own and asks a lot of questions. Williams not only wants to know what his responsibilities are, but also what the guys behind him are supposed to do on every play.
“We watched those guys on film all the time,” Williams said of the Hokies. “Defensively, they’re guys that fly around. They have a bunch of talent and they fly around and make plays. It’s exciting to watch, particularly up front. That’s what really brought me here, just being able to see that on film. It looks like they’re out there just playing free and having fun making plays.”
Williams redshirted in 2017, when Clemson defeated the Hokies 31-17 in Blacksburg in a battle of two ranked teams. Last year, he made his first visit to Lane Stadium, when the crowd was limited to 1,000 because of COVID-19 mandates.
“It obviously wasn’t nearly what it could be or what it’s going to be Sept. 3,” he said.
He can’t wait to experience it. You get the sense that ol’ No. 12 will feel right at home.