The tale of Greedy: LSU's latest dominant DB

BATON ROUGE, La. -- You get two shots at LSU's Greedy Williams, the cornerback with the best cornerback name of all time, the top player at his position on Mel Kiper Jr.'s Big Board of NFL prospects, the latest star-studded defensive back in the history of the self-proclaimed DBU.

Two shots is all the Shreveport native says he's willing to grant, and even then he's not always that generous.

Some naive quarterback may get the best of him once. He'll forgive that much. But not twice. No way. Not on his corner of the earth -- or, in this case, whatever side of the field he happens to be patrolling on a given football Saturday. Come back his way, he warns, "and it's a pick, no doubt."

"The first one, all right," Williams said. "The second one, no. So basically don't throw at me."

Jarrett Stidham tried to test the two-shot allowance earlier this season. Auburn's rifle-armed QB -- himself well regarded by Kiper and other draft aficionados -- went right at Williams in the first half with a back-shoulder pass that moved the chains for a first down. Williams was annoyed momentarily by surrendering the completion, but not altogether worried. When it comes to confidence, his cup runneth over. If you're a receiver in the SEC, chances are he's told you just how good he really is, and, conversely, just how terrible you really are.

Quarterbacks get the same treatment. He likes to play mind games with them, too. If you study enough film -- and Williams prides himself on that -- he says you start to see their tendencies, clear as day. So when Stidham was looking to build on Auburn's eight-point lead in the second half, Williams waited on him to return to the back-shoulder well once more.

On a pivotal third down with less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter, Stidham fell into the trap. He dropped back and dutifully looked the other way at first, away from Williams' side of the field. But Williams felt a familiar pattern in the receiver's feet -- instinctively, he matches them stride for stride, his coach would explain -- and he knew exactly what was coming. So right as Stidham spun his head back around and wound up to throw, Williams broke off the route, cut in front of the receiver and cradled the back-shoulder pass to his chest.

Williams then moved toward the student section, put both hands to his chest as if he was getting ready to undo the top button of a shirt and slowly pulled them apart in a mock attempt at revealing something underneath his jersey. By that time it was obvious what he was doing, replicating former Auburn QB Cam Newton's "Superman" celebration.

That self-assuredness isn't contrived. On the field, Williams is a talker who grew up idolizing fellow Shreveport native and LSU alum Tre'Davious White. Every night before a game, he'll replay old Tyrann Mathieu highlights from his "Honey Badger" days at LSU. It's as if Williams was born to be a swaggering Tigers DB. He puts on that purple-and-gold uniform and it all comes together.

Two weeks after ruining Auburn's day, he and the LSU secondary held Ole Miss' vaunted offense without a passing touchdown. Not only did Williams lead the team in tackles (10), he absolutely handcuffed his assignment, D.K. Metcalf. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound future NFL receiver was targeted nine times and managed just three catches for 37 yards when matched up with Williams.

It wasn't so much that Williams won the one-on-one battle. It was how he worked Metcalf into submission, physically and psychologically. A tug of the jersey here, a shove in the back there, a few choice words whispered in his ear. Williams enjoys doing the little things that strain the nerves. After every incompletion, without fail, he'd stare Metcalf down. At one point, he chaperoned him from the LSU side of the field all the way back to the Ole Miss sideline, walking and talking trash while on his hip the entire 53⅓ yards. It was then that Williams said he saw it in Metcalf's eyes: "He was tapped out. Like, I'm done."

"He was focused on making me shut up," he said, "but you ain't gonna make me shut up. Even if you catch a ball, I'm gonna make you say it was lucky."

The lanky kid with the wide eyes and easy-going smile doesn't square with the cocksure cornerback you see on TV. His voice is measured, steady, almost subdued. It's as if the plush brown leather loveseat he's sitting in on a warm Monday afternoon is going to swallow him up. He looks ... small. At 6-foot-3 and 184 pounds, it's clear he's still filling out. But, hey, at least he's not the 160-pound stick figure who arrived at LSU in 2016.

Outside his uniform, Greedy isn't Greedy. The bright lights draw out and illuminate his persona. At various points during an interview, LSU coach Ed Orgeron will describe the redshirt sophomore as a quiet, "non-assuming kid."

This is the other side of perhaps the best cornerback in college football, who hasn't given up a touchdown all season and currently leads all SEC DBs in completion percentage allowed (30). It's the side that's shy around new people. It's the side that wants nothing more than to go back to his apartment after a game and spend time with his girlfriend and their 1-year-old daughter, Khloe. They put whatever Khloe wants to watch on TV, and these days that means the Disney animated film "Moana." Williams says it has been on repeat so often that he has memorized the words to every song.

By now the world knows the origins of Williams' nickname: during a sleepover at his aunt's home as a baby, she noticed that he wasn't fond of sharing his bottle and took to calling him Greedy. It stuck to the point that he can't think of a single person who calls him by his given name anymore. Not many people know him as Andreaz or that he was named after his father, Andre, or that his sisters are named Keandre and Andrea.

There's a lot that people don't understand about him, Williams says. Such as, that after the hotly contested Ole Miss game, he and Metcalf spoke on the phone, wishing each other luck.

"I'm a friendly, friendly person," he said. "I love to smile. I cherish every moment of my life with my daughter. I've been through rough times and things like that. I've fought adversity a bunch of times with me and my family."

Adversity? Try being a seventh-grader walking home from school and seeing your mother bawling her eyes out on the front porch. Williams can remember it like it was yesterday -- the way the sun was shining so brightly and how everything felt so normal until suddenly nothing made sense. She wouldn't tell him or his brother, Rodarius, what was going on. But one of their older sisters eventually spilled the beans: their mom, LaKesha, had just found out she had cancer.

LaKesha never did talk to her boys about the disease or the surgeries that followed. All she said was she'd have to stop working for a while. But Williams saw how it affected her, how she got tired so easily. It wasn't until Williams' senior year of high school that he said she was given the all-clear by doctors and things started returning to normal.

During this time, Williams would win two state titles at Calvary Baptist, and prove himself to be a cutthroat competitor. He and the team's quarterback, Michigan's Shea Patterson, would have epic battles in practice. Those one-on-one drills, Calvary Baptist coach John Bachman said, were something to see. It was as if game day didn't matter the way those two got when they were going head-to-head.

"He's a great kid," Bachman said. "People don't know. They see from afar. They see him jawing and competing. That's how he attacks life as well. He's not going to lay down for anybody."

Patterson got all the publicity while Williams flew somewhat under the radar, ranked as ESPN's No. 268 prospect in his class. He got a number of FBS offers and took an official visit to Oklahoma State, where Rodarius would sign and eventually start at cornerback. But Williams wanted to stay home and go to LSU. He wanted the challenge of living up to the DBU standard, which has produced an FBS-best 18 NFL draft picks at the position since 2007, including six first-rounders.

"So when you get here, it's like they turn it over to you, like it's your time now," Williams said. "You get that swagger. You get that savage demeanor about you. Everybody wants to be around that type of culture. I was one of those guys that wanted to be around it. I was ready for it. That swagger is one thing we pride ourselves in as defensive backs."

"Noooo," Williams said, shaking his head.

That swagger was not part of his repertoire before he got to LSU. Absolutely not, he says.

Then he went out to practice for the first time and his new teammates started clowning on him immediately. He was confused. Literally the minute he set foot on the field they gave him a hard time, saying he was dressed like a mannequin.

"It was like a big joke to them," Williams recalled. "They were roasting me."

He went back to the locker room where then-safety Jamal Adams schooled him on the way LSU DBs are supposed to present themselves. From then on, he learned, he'd have to wear certain gloves, certain pads, certain socks. And everything had to be oriented a certain way.

When Williams returned in his new getup that day, his attitude started to change. A star was emerging.

Then-coach Les Miles decided to redshirt Williams that first year in part to allow him to put on weight, but even then the skinny cornerback was drawing rave reviews on scout team. He was awarded Scout Team MVP, in fact, after giving future pros DJ Chark and Malachi Dupre headaches in practice.

When Miles was fired four games into the season, interim coach Ed Orgeron addressed the team as a whole. When they left, though, Orgeron pulled Williams aside. "We're going to need you next year," he told him.

Thanks in part to the suspension of Kevin Toliver, a more physically mature Williams was inserted into the starting lineup during the season-opener against BYU last year and nabbed his first career interception. The next game against Chattanooga, he got his second pick. He would go on to lead the team in interceptions (six) and pass breakups (11). All of the sudden, he was an All-SEC selection and pegged as a future top-10 NFL draft pick.

Orgeron laughed when thinking back on it. Toliver returned from suspension, but Williams never gave up his starting spot.

"We thought he was a good player," Orgeron said. "But we didn't exactly know he would be that good that fast."

Now, Orgeron says he wished he had two of Williams. He pointed out how rare it is that Williams can run the route of the receiver, matching their footwork instinctively. Rarer still are his ball skills.

"He can cover you, look at the ball, figure out everything," Orgeron said, snapping his fingers. "And come back to you," he said, snapping his fingers again, "in a split-second." 

In other words, he's a lockdown corner.

"He's it," Orgeron said without hesitation. "Nobody in the country we'd be afraid to say, 'Greedy, you get 'em.'"

When Williams is locked in, it's a show. Like the uniform, being called Greedy is a nickname he says he "wears." It means he can't be Mr. Nice Guy. It means he's going to try to make every play and make sure everyone knows about it when he does.

"I don't necessarily start it," Williams said of talking trash. "But when a receiver says a couple of words, I'm like, 'All right.' Whenever the ball comes his way and he tries to catch it, it's my turn to react. It's my turn to tell you, 'You're sorry, you suck,' that you'll never catch a pass on me. I get to talk. And that gets you out of your game."

At some places -- we're looking at you, Alabama -- that kind of devil-may-care attitude might be viewed as a problem. It might be labeled as arrogance or a distraction or some other nonsense. Not at LSU, though. Not at the place where they proudly refer to themselves as DBU.

"As long as it's not a penalty, I like it," Orgeron said. "I love that confidence, man.

"I used to talk a little s--- myself."

A week after mixing it up with Metcalf, Williams got into it with Florida wideout Kadarius Toney. The two got tangled up at one point and there was pushing and shoving after the whistle. Toney threw a punch at Williams' face, drawing a flag. Williams immediately put both hands out as if to say: Who me? I didn't do anything.

LSU lost a close game 27-19, but Williams played well. Toney didn't catch a single pass, and another of Williams' assignments, Van Jefferson, was held to less than 50 yards. All told, Williams has been targeted 30 times this season and has allowed, on average, 1.5 completions and 24.17 yards per game.

On Saturday, Williams will be featured in another SEC showdown as No. 2 Georgia travels to Tiger Stadium. The Bulldogs believe they have the country's best cornerback in DeAndre Baker, so don't be surprised if Williams shows a little extra emotion, playing with a little something extra to prove.

Whether he's locked onto Terry Godwin or Mecole Hardman or Riley Ridley, they may get the best of him once. He'll grant that. But if you're quarterback Jake Fromm, be wary of trying him again.

Greedy Williams is not in the business of sharing. Test him a second time and he's going to try to take the ball from you, no doubt.