Jesse Williams was an Australian native born on Thursday Island off the north coast of Queensland. He played for the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL from 2013 – 2015 as a defensive tackle, so he was in the U.S. when Jarryd Hayne made his celebrated splash by hopping codes from rugby to gridiron.
Williams was a part of the Seahawks team that won Super Bowl 48 in 2013, but his path to the NFL was by far more traditional than was Hayne’s.
He played college football for powerhouse University of Alabama, where that side won national championships in 2012 and 2013, so Williams was an experienced gridiron campaigner who impressed enough that he was taken by the Seahawks in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Williams was forced to retire when diagnosed with kidney cancer in May of 2015 and he spent most of his career on the injured reserve list, but he offers some keen insights into the way Hayne’s arrival in the NFL was perceived by him and other Australians in the NFL.
Williams told News Corp, “It was an interesting situation, I was currently in the US when it all happened. I’ve never met the person (Hayne) in my life … but it wasn’t well received by the other Australians in the NFL. They were unhappy with the story that was coming along with it. He was portrayed (in Australia) like he was the only Australian over there when there were already five or six in the NFL doing quite well.”
Williams was quick to point out that athletic ability alone was far from sufficient to establish a career in the NFL.
He rather succinctly summed up the cutthroat nature of the NFL, saying, “I could go to Walmart in the US (certainly no Walmart on Thursday Island, or anywhere in Australia) and find people who played three years in high school, and ran track who just made some wrong decisions (and didn’t make it to the NFL). It’s just such a hyper-competitive culture. If you make one slip-up, it’s done.”