Former Tiger Mike Williams Opens Up on South Carolina

Zach Lentz

CLEMSON— While many around the state of South Carolina are busy eating their turkey, the third-ranked Clemson Tigers will be thinking about chicken, as they preparing for their annual post-Thanksgiving matchup with the South Carolina Gamecocks.

While the Tigers and Gamecocks are gearing up for their game Saturday (noon, ESPN), former Clemson, Lake Marion Gator and current Los Angeles Charger Mike Williams will be watching the Tigers take on the Gamecocks from his home.

“For sure, I'm watching that,” Williams told Clemson Maven in an exclusive interview.

Williams did not hold back on his thoughts about the rivalry and his plans for a little extra-curricular fun with former Gamecock defensive lineman Melvin Ingram, now his teammate.

"It's going to be a lot of trash talking,” Williams said. “I don't think South Carolina good enough for him to bet me though. So, I think it might just be a whole lot of trash talking going on and maybe we'll just bet on whoever wins the other person has to wear the other teams shirt or something like that.”

The Tigers have dominated the series with the Gamecocks, as they own a 70-4-42 record against their rival—including having won the last five games in a row.

But for Williams, even though he had heard about the rivalry, he did not understand what it meant to the fans and the people of the state until he suited up for his first game against the Gamecocks.

"I didn't know until I actually played in a game, that's when I figured out that this right here is crazy,” Williams said. “Fans really go crazy over this game and people be crying like over this game. That's when you realize this rivalry means so much for this state and a lot more than the people going out there playing and the coaches--this game really means a lot to the people also.

"Well, you hear about it before going and actually playing and you watch the games, but you don't know what it's really like until you actually out there on the field playing. All the emotions and everything that comes with the game is different--it's got a different vibe around campus and everybody just talks about it differently from home, because it's a rivalry game with both South Carolina teams. It just brings up a lot of different energy from the outsiders. You just have to focus and treat it as just another game."

Piggyback rides:

The last time that Williams suited up for a game against the Gamecocks was Nov. 26, 2016, a game that saw the Tigers beat the Gamecocks 56-7—the schools second-largest margin of victory over the Gamecocks (51-0 in 1900).

But the play that, now two years later, has been immortalized on t-shirts, bumper stickers and on social media came with 5:53 to play in the second quarter. With the Tigers leading 7-0, William caught a pass from former quarterback Deshaun Watson on the Gamecock 8-yard line and proceeded to give Gamecock defender Jamarcus King a piggyback ride into the end zone.

It was a play that Williams believes will live forever in the history of the rivalry.

“For sure, that's something that I feel like that's going to live forever when you talk about South Carolina and Clemson,” Williams said. “We beat them pretty bad, so that game right there was like a game I'll always remember. I didn't want to lose to those guys, not once. Unfortunately, I lost to them my freshman year and then won the rest of them after that. So, we've just got to keep the streak going."

Turning around the hometown:

Williams understood when he committed to be a Clemson Tiger that he would hear about his decision to spurn the Gamecocks from those members of his hometown.

The Vance native, understood that the only way to quiet the naysayers was to go out and beat the Gamecocks—which, except for his first year, was exactly what he and the Tigers did.

"For me, there was a lot of South Carolina fans where I was at, so I was kind of hearing it,” Williams said. “So, when I came to Clemson I kind of changed a lot of those people--a lot of people were rooting for Clemson because of me. We kind of shut that up quick by winning. You know they had they five in a row--when I committed to Clemson that's all I was hearing was about the five in a row and this and that. But after we started winning, I feel like a lot more people down where I'm at started liking Clemson just because we beat them."

Turning the page:

Even though Williams has not been a part of the Tigers’ program for the last two season, since turning professional following the 2016 season, he still keeps up with the Tigers.

And the Tigers recent run of success against the Gamecocks is not surprising because he understands the kind of players that head coach Dabo Swinney recruits.

”Yeah, for sure (I expected this), it was just being recruited to Clemson, we seen the guys coming in and we had a chance to be successful and a chance to go on a run for a while,” Williams said. “That’s just showing who Coach Swinney and the rest of the coaching staff, who they recruit, bring in the program and who they want to go out and have fun."

Williams chooses to not bother the current Tigers with phone calls and text messages because he remembers what it was like for him as a player.

“I haven't really been in contact with none of the players this year,” Williams said. “I just kind of let players focus and do what they do to get through the season. I don't really like to blow people up. When I was in college, I just liked to go out there and play. I didn't really want anybody, good luck this, good luck that--just go out there and play. I know those guys are working hard and it's showing on the field. They are dominating during games. I just feel like they are going to be well-prepared for the game.”

The thing that has impressed Williams this season is not the offensive numbers or the defensive prowess with which the Tigers are playing, instead it is the fact that everybody is contributing—which is a good sign for years to come.

"Everybody making plays. It's not just one person, you seeing just one person just going out there and you have to depend on that one person--it's a team effort,” Williams said. “You see a lot of young players making plays and that just shows they going to be doing the same thing next year."

The Tigers can beat the Tide:

For a player that faced the Alabama two times, and beat the Tide in his final game, the 2017 National Championship, Williams believes that should the Tigers and the Tide meet for a fourth straight season the Tigers will emerge victorious.

But his advise to the 2019 Tigers is to not worry about that game and focus on winning the next one.

"Oh yeah, take it one game at a time,” Williams said. “Don’t look ahead too fast because that's when you start to forget what you’re working for. Just continue to focus on one game at a time and everything else will happen good."