Moving the Chains with … Southern Illinois running back Javon Williams Jr.

Javon Williams Jr. has become accustomed to finding the end zone. (Photo by

By Dan Verdun

Javon Williams Jr. came to Southern Illinois University as a quarterback but was converted to a triple-threat running back. He’s proven to be a valuable weapon in the Saluki offensive arsenal.

Williams has accounted for 40 touchdowns in his SIU career — 33 by run, five by pass and two by reception.

You have to wonder if the guys being run over by Williams Jr. as he barrels toward the goal line know that this 6-foot-2, 245-pound back thinks the world of his grandmother and can belt out country music ballads.

Learn more about Williams Jr. in our Moving the Chains Q&A:

What was it like growing up in Centralia?

That’s where I was when I was born and where I stayed and grew up. Great little small town. We call it “The Wild West” in the (football) facility. Once an Orphan (high school team nickname), always an Orphan. I’m going to die an Orphan. It was great going to school there. It was a great experience. Memories that will always be with me. 

What was your favorite board game as a kid?

I actually didn’t play board games, I played cards. I started playing rummy, tunk (sometimes called tonk), spades at a young age with my grandma and my dad. 

Javon Williams Jr.

What can you tell us about your Grandma (Moneta Williams)?

Grandma is a strong Black woman. She honestly exemplifies excellence every day. She used to work with the food program, overseeing all the people who didn’t have money, didn’t have food, didn’t have places to go. She always was and still is the heart of our family. She keeps everybody happy and positive. She knows if you have bad days, there will be good days, you’ve just got to trust in God. 

What was your most embarrassing moment as a kid?

When I was in grade school I had a bad day with the teachers. My mom came in and she yelled at me in front of the whole class and then sat in class with me. Ever since then I started doing a lot better in school and in class. I didn’t ever want to experience that again (laughs).

You played quarterback in high school. How much do you miss playing that position?

I’ve actually talked to (special teams) Coach (Dalmin) Gibson about it a couple of times. I miss being the one who starts the play with the ball in my hands first and being able to distribute. I know I’m the running back now, but we still get some pass plays in. I do miss it a lot. 

What’s your favorite way to score a touchdown?

I still think my best play is third or fourth down on the goal line or about five yards (out). One of the toughest running plays. People really don’t understand (how tough it is). Fourth-and-four, third-and-five scenarios on the goal line. That’s it.

What’s something that people don’t know about you that you’re willing to share?

SIU has really allowed me to express myself. I’m a jack of all trades. I can sing. I was in an a capella group. It’s nice with me being a bigger guy, people not expecting me to be able to sing. I can rip out a few keys or vocals. 

What are your favorite songs to sing?

I like singing country. “Beautiful Crazy” by Luke Combs and then I like singing “Tennessee Whiskey” by Chris Stapleton. Those are my staple songs on karaoke.

Would you say you’re the best singer on the team?

A few other guys can sing on the team, but everybody that has heard me sing said that I am the best, so . . . 

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