Brennan Williams received a scholarship to play at the University of North Carolina, which is where he was named an honorable mention on the 2012 All-ACC team. In 2013 he was drafted in the third round by the Houston Texans, and now plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
He is also unquestionably the biggest nerd in the NFL.
Williams’ Twitter handle is “THEGREATBLACKOTAKU,” he rolls with a custom anime Twitter profile picture, his Tumblr reads “the official Tumblr of a professional football player with the heart of a Japanese schoolgirl," and he’s a regular guest on the popular post-Raw YouTube talk show “Straight Shoot.” He has the rare, rare combination of distilled geekiness and flat-out athleticism. Simply put, I’ve never related to someone in sports more than I have with Brennan Williams.
We caught up with Williams in his occasional off-time during training camp. We talked about anime, comics, wrestling, and what it’s like being a football player with highly unconventional interests.
How did you first start watching anime?
Well my dad played football before me, and whenever he went to training camp he would always bring me back something I was into. This was back when training camp went on forever. At the time I was into Power Rangers and Godzilla, which naturally equals Dragonball Z. He brought back a box set, one of those box sets where when you put it together it makes a picture. I was hooked on DBZ ever since.
Was that your favorite anime growing up?
Yeah, so once I ran out of those VHSes I moved on to Cartoon Network and Toonami. Those were just the shows I was into and I’ve stuck with it ever since.
What anime are you watching right now?
I was on a road trip this past week, so we were driving to North Carolina. I got to catch up JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure which I was behind on because of OTAs and minicamp, and that was pretty great.
What’s your favorite show of all time?
I like a lot of older stuff. I love Cowboy Bebop, I love Ghost in the Shell, I love Evangelion. That’s the stuff I go back and rewatch.
How much faith do you have in the upcoming live-action Ghost in the Shell movie?
Zero (laughs,) I have no expectations. I haven’t seen the Age of Tomorrow movie and that’s supposed to be really good, but from what I understand is that they just take the names and really Americanize them. I can’t stand for that.
There are not a lot of people who are pro football players who’re also into a lot of nerdy stuff. What was your life like in high school? Were you hanging out with both the jocks and nerds?
Generally speaking my friends group was on the geekier side of things. But I avoided a lot of harassment because I was a good football player (laughs.) You can kind of like what you like when you’re a 315 pound black guy.
You’re in camp right now with the Jaguars which is a new team for you. Do other players know about your nerdy side or do you keep that hidden?
I am new here, so when everyone else is way cooler than you, you are a little more careful. I don’t hide it, but it’s not something everyone knows yet. It’s mostly just people in my position group that knows I’m into comics and wrestling and stuff. You gotta ease them into it (laughs.)
Have you ever met anyone in athletics that’s as big of a nerd as you?
I wouldn’t say “as big” (laughs,) but definitely in college I had a lot of friends that I’d talk comics, or wrestling, or anime with. There’s all sorts of interests in sports.
This is going up on Sports Illustrated, and I’m guessing there are going to be some people reading this who aren’t necessarily huge anime fans. Make the Brennan Williams pitch for why people should start paying attention to anime.
When I explain to my wife why I like anime, I try to get the point across that anime is just a medium as much as TV or movies is a medium. If you like any genre, sports, drama, mystery, anything, you can find an anime for it. It’s not all magical girls or people charging power levels. When you look past that you can find all sorts of great stories.
Let’s talk wrestling really quick, do you think Kevin Owens should win the U.S. title at Battleground on Sunday?
Absolutely! I’m positive that he’s going to.
Do you think he goes over clean?
Um… no. But I didn’t think he would the first time either. I’ve been wrong a lot lately, I like it but I don’t like it.
Who’s the most underused guy on the main roster?
I always say Dolph Ziggler. I think he’s great, he doesn’t get used nearly as well as he could be. I feel the same way about Cody Rhodes.
Do you think Daniel Bryan will ever wrestle again?
I do. I hear they’re saying concussion is his injury, and I feel it’s one of those things where if he takes rehab seriously and actually takes some time off – he rushed back last time for no reason – he’ll be okay.
Let’s talk comics, what have you been reading lately?
I’m a Marvel guy, I like DC but I stick to Marvel. So I’m all over Secret Wars and trying to keep up with all the different parts of it.
What’s your favorite spinoff from Secret Wars?
I love Battleworld because it’s so ridiculous. The last one I read they had a crossover between Blade and Howard the Duck called Blade the Duck which was amazing. Generally though I’m an X-Men guy.
Are you for the Marvel reboot coming up?
I’m for it, I think they’re going to try and streamline things for movie fans. I think they’re going to try to have things make sense for everyone trying to jump in.
At some point you’ll be done with your football career. Once that happens do you think you’ll pursue any of these things you’re interested in?
Absolutely. I’m two hours away from the NXT Performance Center up in Full Sail, so that’s always an option. I’ve made a bunch of great connections just in the last couple years. Hopefully I’ll have a long enough career that I can pursue whatever I want to do after and don’t have to worry about the logistics of a real job.