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Jamal 'Big Mal' Williams on His Big Chargers Honor
The former nose tackle is the 40th member of the Chargers Hall of Fame and recaps his stellar career and what this honor means to him.
By Hayley Elwood Oct 20, 2022

On Sunday, October 23, Chargers legend Jamal Williams will become the 40th member of the Chargers Hall of Fame.

During his 12 seasons with the Bolts, the former nose tackle made an indelible impact on the organization and the NFL, becoming one of the most feared interior defensive linemen of his era and earning multiple All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors in the process.

Ahead of his enshrinement, I had a chance to sit down with 'Big Mal' to talk about his career and what this honor means to him.

Congratulations, what does being inducted in the Chargers Hall of Fame mean to you?

Williams: This honor means a lot to me because it took a lot of hard work with my teammates over the years. Numerous years of different players putting work in to accomplish the goals and that's what we strived for. It paid off, and this goal right here is to be amongst the legends of the game and our Chargers society and our gridiron warriors. I'm just overjoyed to spend this time in this moment in this place in history for the Chargers.

You were a second-round pick in the 1998 Supplemental Draft. Looking back, what was your mindset like knowing you had to carve out a different path to the NFL?

Williams: It's kind of weird because I had to make an adjustment, but my mindset was, I didn't care if I got drafted as long as I got into the league. I had to go put my foot down and from day one, it was extra motivation to say, 'Hey, you have to go out there and show what you've got.' I had a lot of people behind me throughout the years encouraging me to pursue that goal.

Who were some of those people, Chargers players or coaches, who took you under their wing and had an impact on your playing days?

Williams: There are numerous guys I can name, but I'll start off with my rookie year walking on to the field with Junior Seau, Rodney Harrison, Norman Hand, John Parrella – these guys were setting the standard out there.

I walked onto the field and was like wow, this is the pace, this is how we're supposed to practice, this is how we're supposed to prepare and when it's game time, you could always count on these guys. You'd look to your left and your right and know that these guys were all synced and ready to dominate on the field.

Shawne Merriman on Jamal Williams

“I can’t even talk about my career without talking about Jamal Williams and what he did for me, what he did for us. I can’t think of a person that’s more well-deserving. I’m proud to call him a teammate of mine, but it’s an honor to call him a brother.”

Your rookie year, you scored a touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks. What do you remember about that play?

Williams: It was 14 yards, and I was [saying to myself], 'Please do not drop this ball!' I intercepted the ball and was like, 'Oh, there's the end zone. Let's go! Whatever you do, do not fumble this ball, let's make a play.'

I ran into the end zone and I looked at my teammates and they were celebrating and I was like what do I do? So I did a little, I call it cheesy now, little dance move. Guys were so excited, and it was a great joy to [make] an impact on the game at that time.

In 2004, the Chargers make a change at defensive coordinator. You're 4-12 the previous year and they bring in Wade Phillips. What kind of impact did he have on your career?

Williams: Oh, a tremendous impact. When Wade came in, he brought in a lot of parts to fit the scheme so the scheme worked. He sat me down and he told me, 'Hey, this nose tackle position is an integral part of this defense. This is how a 3-4 defense will work.' At the time, I'm like, yeah, everybody has an important job, but once we started learning the scheme, you have to be beast mode and be incredible, strong, and stout in there to make this defense work.

We had all the right pieces. I had great linebackers behind me, Randall Godfrey, Steve Foley, [and] we brought in young, strong guys like Igor Olshansky and Jacques Cesaire. All the pieces worked. We just went out there and did what we had to do.

What was the mindset of those Chargers teams to go on the run you had?

Williams: Each week, it was totally different. Some guys took on the WWE type of mentality of tag team brothers, like you'd hear in the meetings, 'OH YEAH, BROTHER!' Fired up, and we'd still have three to four more days before the game!

But everyone would take on some type of character. If you were big, buff, and strong, you took on the Incredible Hulk. Each week, we were ready to add something, and it was a lot of fun out there.

LaDainian Tomlinson on Jamal Williams

“It’s hard to put what Jamal meant to our team into words. He was the enforcer in the middle of our defense, of course, and when he was out on that field everyone on offense knew we’d be getting the ball back much sooner than later. He just instilled that kind of confidence. We knew the defense was going to ball out because of him. But those are the obvious things. What made Jamal special was that he was much more than a teammate. He was a brother. And I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this honor than my brother, Jamal.”

What's your favorite Chargers memory?

Williams: I played a lot of football, and each year was something different. But my greatest memory was just being out there with the guys. Going through training camp, the process, the preparation.

I had a blessed time to be with Marty Schottenheimer and he was a stickler on preparation, because all the smaller things in life and in a game could make the biggest impact on whatever you had as your goals so we strived to do that.

Three All-Pro honors, three-straight Pro Bowls, multiple Chargers Defensive Player of the Year and Lineman of the Year honors.

What would the kid from Washington D.C. say about what you've accomplished?

Williams: Wow. The kid from D.C. He would probably say that throughout the struggles, you still kept it moving. Throughout the struggles, throughout adversity, you kept pushing to strive for that goal and you're reaching it in this sport.

He'd probably say that I've been through a lot, and I accomplished a lot, but I didn't accomplish a lot of things by myself. Because in this journey, you walk that path with a lot of people. I'm so appreciative of my teammates, the staff, and everyone in the Chargers organization.

Lastly, as you look back on your career, and everything you've accomplished and this honor as well, what kind of legacy do you hope to have left?

Williams: One of [being] a great teammate. Those are my brothers; I call them my gridiron brothers. Some were wackier than others! But all in all, we went out there together on that field. We worked hard. We put in the time and the effort on and off the field.

Each win was so ecstatic and meant so much because we put in that work. Even in the times of losses, we still found positives to take to be even better.

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