University of Miami

How Jarren Williams’ glorious Monday began with a December car ride with Brevin Jordan

‘The moment is never too big for me,’ Jarren Williams said.

Miami Hurricanes quarterback Jarren Williams talks to the media during football media day at the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility at the University of Miami on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 Coral Gables.
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Miami Hurricanes quarterback Jarren Williams talks to the media during football media day at the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility at the University of Miami on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 Coral Gables.

Jarren Williams had “a good feeling” he’d be the University of Miami’s starting quarterback after Saturday night’s scrimmage.

“I’m a very confident guy,’’ the 6-2, 210-pound redshirt freshman said Tuesday. “Very confident.’’

But that didn’t keep him from praying.

He knew for sure Monday morning, when coach Manny Diaz brought in separately each of the two contenders who didn’t win the job — redshirt sophomore Tate Martell and redshirt sophomore N’Kosi Perry — and then called in Williams.

“He sat down and he looked me in my eyes,’’ Williams said of Diaz. “He said, ‘You’re a tough guy. You’re a very gifted passer. He was just like, ‘You’re my guy and we’re going to roll with you.’

“It almost felt unreal, honestly. It was like, ‘Wow, this is what I’ve been working for my whole life.’ ’’

Williams called his mother and father first, telling them he’d be the starter against the Florida Gators a week from Saturday. “Tears of joy,’’ he said. “Very big moment for us.”

Diaz later announced the news at a team meeting, which proved to be one of the high points of Williams’ day. The team applauded, but kept it somewhat tempered because Perry and Martell were there, too. Star defensive end Jonathan Garvin then swooped up Williams in his arms and “kind of ran around with me,’’ Williams said. “Big dude. That was a good moment, too.

“Guys came up to me, they were happy for me. They were like, ‘Hey, man. It’s time to work. It’s time to go do it.’ ’’

Said junior running back DeeJay Dallas: “I’m happy with it. I’m game with it. I’ll rock with him till whenever. He’s a game manager. He plays point guard when he plays quarterback. He distributes the ball to the people who need it — the playmakers — and he does it at an efficient rate. He’s smooth in the pocket. He’s cool, calm, collected in the huddle.’’

Freshman defensive end Jahfari Harvey, a man-child on the field who will surely play early and often, said the team eagerly awaited Diaz’s announcement.

“Nobody knew until he told us,’’ Harvey said. “Everybody was happy for Jarren. He improved a lot from the spring.’’

Defensive end Greg Rousseau said he was “proud of Jarren.’’

“I know he’s going to put his body on the line every single week,” Rousseau said. “That’s my boy. Just a great kid.’’

As for the runners-up in this battle, who are now vying to be the backup to Williams, they both participated in Tuesday’s practice. Coaches said there’s no indication they will transfer.

“I don’t ask those guys if they’re staying,’’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Dan Enos said. “That’s not my job. If they’re in the room every day, I coach them.”

Williams said Martell and Perry were both “very happy” for him. “There was no hate. None of that at all. We’re like brothers. They both gave me a hug.’’

Tight end Brevin Jordan, a former high school teammate and close friend of Martell’s, said Martell was “definitely a little hurt about it because he’s such a competitive guy,’’ but that Martell “knows he’s going to play a big role for us.

“He works his tail off ... he puts in the extra work. He knows the playbook in and out.’’

Jordan, however, also is close with Williams and said he had taken “a big step in being a leader, being accountable. Just seeing how he has matured and grown up has been impressive. ... I think the reason [he previously] gained so much weight was because he was depressed. He was just sad. He’s such a good dude and he has such amazing talent, so last year to see Jarren ... getting no reps — he was running with the [third-team]. ... It hurt us, man.’’

Jordan said he was one of the Hurricanes with Williams “when [the quarterback] was about to put his name in the transfer portal’’ last December. “I was literally in the car with him. It was me and Brian Hightower and we were like, ‘Bro, I’m telling you, you can do it. Just stay. Stick it out.’

“We were telling him, ‘God puts his toughest warriors through the hardest battles.’”

When former coach Mark Richt, who only played Williams sparingly in one game last season, resigned, Jordan explained, it was a “fresh start’’ for Williams.

“He was like, ‘All right, cool. I need to lock in. I need to lead this team.’’’

Now, Williams for sure is “the guy.’’

“It’s good to have a guy,’’ Diaz said, “and a guy that I felt like at times we didn’t have a year ago.

“We’re going to rally around our guy. We’re going to protect our guy.’’

Williams, who was suspended one game last season for violating an undisclosed team policy, said he “looked in the mirror” and began to understand “now is the time you’ve got to grow up.

“I feel I became a better man,’’ he said of last year’s travails. “And I’m still becoming a better man.’’

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Miami Herald sports writer Susan Miller Degnan has been the Miami Hurricanes football beat writer since 2000, the season before the Canes won it all. She has won several APSE national writing awards and has covered everything from Canes baseball to the College Football Playoff to major marathons to the Olympics.
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