Rams' Jalen Ramsey: 'Time to start talking about' Darious Williams as household name

INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- Darious Williams flipped his hips, then leaped to intercept a pass from Russell Wilson in the end zone.

Later, Williams backpedaled, then launched himself forward to snag another Wilson throw.

And the Los Angeles Rams' cornerback wasn't finished wreaking havoc on the Seattle Seahawks' Super Bowl champion quarterback yet.

With the Rams ahead 23-13 with 46 seconds remaining, Williams defended Tyler Lockett, staying in lock-step with the Seahawks All-Pro receiver for more than 25 yards before once again launching his body into the air to deflect a pass that Wilson placed -- almost perfectly -- in the back corner of the end zone.

"It's time to start talking about D-Will in this league as a household name, as a guy who can potentially be an All-Pro, as a guy who should be a Pro Bowler," said teammate Jalen Ramsey after the Rams improved to 6-3 with a 23-16 win over the Seahawks.

A third-year player from UAB who went undrafted, Williams is a mild-mannered, little-known cornerback who plays opposite of the All-Pro Ramsey, who signed a $105 million contract before the season. As quarterbacks avoid challenging Ramsey, it's often Williams who handles the additional action.

"I get all the ops, basically," said Williams, who is scheduled to earn $750,000 this season. "Jalen obviously -- nobody is going to go to him, so that's just more fun for me."

Williams has been thriving with the opportunity. A first-year starter, he leads the Rams with four interceptions, which ranks third in the NFL, and seven pass breakups, which ranks among the top 10 in the league.

He's only the third player to intercept Wilson, now in his ninth season, multiple times in a game.

"This guy shows up in a big way," Rams coach Sean McVay said.

It took a long, winding path for the 27-year-old Williams to earn a starting role in L.A.

A Jacksonville native, Williams played one season at Marietta College, a Division III school in Ohio, before trying to walk-on at UAB in 2013 but being told there were no spots available. A year later, UAB underwent a coaching change and Williams tried out again. This time he earned a spot, a starting role and a scholarship midway through the season. However, the program folded following the season. Though it was reinstated shortly after, the school did not return to game action until 2017.

During a portion of the hiatus, Williams returned home and attended classes at a local college while delivering flowers for a local hardware store, turning down offers to play for other programs as he prepared to return to UAB. In two seasons at UAB, Williams intercepted six passes and had 26 pass breakups.

But at 24 years old, he went undrafted in 2018 and signed as a free agent with the Baltimore Ravens, where he was released after four games. The Rams signed Williams two days after the Ravens let him go, and his role has increased steadily since.

In the absence of an injured Troy Hill, Williams capitalized on an opportunity start the final two games of last season and intercepted passes against both the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals and had three pass breakups.

After he was hired in L.A. this past offseason, first-year defensive coordinator Brandon Staley took notice of Williams' film, his style of play and penciled him in as a starter.

"This guy has a lot of tools at corner that you're looking for," Staley said. "When he got his opportunity, he kind of showed that he had the right stuff."

The 5-foot-9, 187-pound Williams has cover skills, speed, a vertical leap and ball skills -- plus, he's eager to learn the nuances that can set great players apart.

"He's really matured as a professional in studying the game, knowing where his play opportunities are and then knowing when he just needs to play technique," said cornerbacks coach Aubrey Pleasant. "It's been a pleasant surprise working with him since the day he's gotten here."

Williams has also benefited from the help of teammates, including some of the top cornerbacks in the NFL. He arrived in 2018 to a position group that included All-Pros Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters. After they departed midway through last season, Ramsey arrived.

Williams said Talib "pretty much took me under his arm and showed me how to watch film."

However, Talib -- who was traded midway through last season and has since retired, remembered it slightly different, saying that Williams sought out advice.

"I help all the young dudes out, all the ones who in the room and want the help -- I'm gonna help them," Talib said. "If they ask me a question or something, I'm going to help them and Darious was one."

Talib says he's not surprised by Williams' success, and that he and Peters knew early on that Williams had great potential.

"We all knew he was different," Talib said. "He just had a different type of movement and we used to always laugh and joke about how fast he was and how quick he was in the meeting room and you know what I'm saying, we was just always like, 'Boy, I'm telling you, you are gonna be straight.'"

This past Sunday's performance against the Seahawks was a glimpse of what Williams has been doing throughout the season.

In a Week 2 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, with the Rams ahead 21-16 in the third quarter, Williams intercepted a pass in the end zone from quarterback Carson Wentz to prevent the Eagles from a go-ahead score, switching the momentum as the Rams went on to win 37-19.

A week later, Williams nearly made game-saving play, if not for a questionable defensive pass interference penalty. The Rams went on a 29-0 run to erase a 25-point deficit and take a 32-28 lead over the Buffalo Bills. On fourth-and-8 from the Rams' 13 with 25 seconds remaining, Williams defended a Josh Allen pass to Gabriel Davis that appeared to seal the win for the Rams. However, an official threw a late flag. The Bills were given a fresh set of downs and scored the game-winning touchdown on the next play.

"The only thing I thought he could've not done was flail or put his hands up," Pleasant said about the play. "I think that him throwing his hands up might've gave the rep an opportunity to think that something was wrong ... but I thought he played really good technique."

Williams bounced back the following week when he intercepted a Daniel Jones' pass at the Rams' 5-yard line with 57 seconds remaining to secure a 17-9 win over the New York Giants.

"He's just a clutch player," McVay said. "He's been doing that ever since he got an opportunity to play really last year."

Williams is not a household name yet, but he doesn't seem to mind. He's making plays and, on a defense that includes several stars, has established his role.

"I always knew I was going to be a baller in the league," Williams said. "It just depended on who needed me and when they needed me."