Five weeks until the NFL draft means there’s a lot of time to speculate about what may happen. But that’s not the case for Andre Williams.
Most of his free time is spent in an office at his older brother’s home outside Atlanta—at least one or two hours a day, and even more on weekends. He’s writing a book on the desktop computer, and has organized a filing cabinet with folders in primary colors: NFL Contracts (empty for now), Trading Card Deals, Endorsements, and so forth.
“I’m not necessarily using it as a distraction, but I feel like this is what everybody should be thinking about,” Williams says. “They shouldn’t be worrying about where they are going to go [in the draft], or who is interested … you’ve kind of just got to be about your business, so that’s what I’m trying to do. Take care of my body, and be about my business.”
The former Boston College running back and Heisman finalist, whose journey to the NFL draft has been chronicled by The MMQB, has always been a forward-thinker. He finished his bachelor’s degree in three-and-a-half years. On the precipice of plunging into the unfamiliar world of professional football, he seems to have already mastered the hardest lesson: that an NFL career is a business on and off the field.
Last week, for instance, Williams worked out a budget sheet. He doesn’t know what he’ll earn in his first NFL contract—that will be dictated by the slot he’s drafted in, according to the rookie wage scale—but he wanted to practice budgeting monthly expenses. He factored in the trading card deals he’s already signed, and the endorsement offers he’s received. He’s acutely aware of the fact that running backs, especially of the big, bruising kind, often have a shorter careers than many other positions.
Williams’ body is the most important part of his business. He’s at the Georgia training center run by Chip Smith every weekday morning. Three days a week, he does position work with former NFL running back Garrison Hearst, who punctuates drills with tales from his 10 professional seasons. In the afternoons, Williams does speed and agility sessions, or he lifts weights, and he’s still rehabbing the shoulder he banged up in BC’s bowl game. In the evenings, he goes to either a 75-minute pilates or yoga session; on Sundays, he’s started a new tradition of a more-than-six-mile hike up Kennesaw Mountain with his sister-in-law. Beyond his schedule, he literally juggles every day to make his hands better suited for catching.
Phone calls from NFL teams trickle in, and one expressed interest in having him visit at the end of the month, but the benefit of having carried the ball 355 times for 2,177 yards as a senior is that many clubs have already seen what they need to see. Williams was told this would be the calm before the storm, so to speak, but he’s using the time to plan for the future in ways not often seen from a 21-year-old.
“I’m a little bit of an entrepreneur,” Williams says, “so I’ve got a couple things going.”
The book he’s been writing since his senior year of college, A King, a Queen and a Conscience—a philosophical memoir, he calls it—now has three of its eight sections completed. He was stuck on one section, about his parents’ immigration from Jamaica, so he quizzed his dad for details during a recent visit home to Schnecksville, Pa. Williams will sit at the black desk for hours at a time churning out thousands of words.
He’s also been drawing up business plans. The four Williams siblings are each four years apart, and Andre’s closest relationship is with the brother eight years his senior. Ervin Jr.’s home is Andre’s official address in NFL teams’ black books. He is a barber, and Ervin’s wife, Shekayla, has her own business doing hair and eyelashes. Williams plans to be an investor for them, to help them open up their own shop together. “Bro gives the freshest of cuts,” Williams says with a grin. “He’s an artist. The biggest lesson I think my older brother taught me is the genius in artistry.”
Williams’ business moniker is “Kosher,” something he’s had since middle school, when he and his two best friends, Freddy and Dorsey, brainstormed nicknames. “I wanted it to mean good for consumption, genuine,” Williams says. Another part of his plan is true to that title. Williams just finished writing mission statements for two non-profits he hopes to start: The Kosher Kids Club, an after-school program for kids ages 6 to 12, and The Kosher Lifestyle Group, a mentor program for kids ages 13 to 19, to help them pursue their goals in sports and higher education.
He reads out loud: “The Kosher Lifestyle Group wishes to enable these children in both these fields by providing facilities, equipment, sports trainers, college athletes, mentors, tutors and programs that prepare you for the rigors of life as a student-athlete.”
His mom, Lancelene, is thinking about taking in foster kids, and that got Williams thinking. He’d like to start by creating a trust, to benefit single parents or parents who are adopting or taking in foster kids, and build his non-profit from that base. Williams moved around a lot as a kid—Poughkeepsie to Jamaica to New Jersey to Georgia to Schnecksville—and he saw how his own opportunities changed when his dad’s HVAC business started to take off and bring in good money for the family.
“I want to start something,” he says, “where I can help kids out in underprivileged situations; where the school or the neighborhood doesn’t have the social capital or the resources to give the kids that live over here the same opportunity as the kids that live over there where everything is shiny and green.”
Like his NFL career, these are still dreams, but ones he’s preparing and planning to make happen. He has another project in the works—an invention—but he’s keeping that under wraps for now, as any smart entrepreneur would while waiting to file a patent.
“That’s what real life is about,” Williams says. “It’s not about living day to day. You are supposed to be using your free time to build something bigger. I feel like I’m a big-picture kind of guy, and this is the moment in my life that I’m getting to do something special, so I don’t want to waste it. I want to make the most out of it.”
Five weeks until the draft, but this rookie-to-be already has the seasoning of an old pro.