GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers would rather not have a running back by committee.
“Teams that say they want a running back by committee,” Packers senior personnel executive Alonzo Highsmith said, “it’s because they don’t have one running back.”
Then how about a running back by friendship?
That’s what they have in Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones, two of the three backs they picked on Day 3 of this year’s NFL draft. The fast friends believe they can help resurrect the Packers’ running game.
Williams and Jones struck up a friendship early on in the draft process. They share the same agent, Leigh Steinberg, and now they share the same address. The two running backs will be forever tied together along with Devante Mays. The Packers drafted all three of them on the same day: Williams in the fourth round, Jones in the fifth and Mays in the seventh.
If one of them ends up teaming with Ty Montgomery to help boost the Packers’ running game, then it will be worth spending three draft picks on the same position.
“Of course we would love to have a guy that can come in and be a horse, but they’re hard to get,” Highsmith said during the draft weekend. “It’s a tough position.”
So the Packers may have no choice but to approach it as a group effort, and in Williams and Jones they have two potential complementary backs.
“Aaron, he really has the routes down and he’s really a receiving back, and I’m more of a downhill, hard-hitter,” Williams said. “But at the same time we can always teach each other something, and I can learn how to run routes better by asking him things and if he needs anything from inside the tackles, I can teach him things like that. We really just complement each other. There’s no egos, we just want each other to do the best we can.”
Of the group, Montgomery included, Williams has the look of a workhorse back. At 6-foot and 212, he has the physical makeup to withstand the abuse that an every-down back takes.
“Jamaal’s a stud,” said former BYU quarterback Taysom Hill, who signed with the Packers as an undrafted free agent. “I think he’s a very passionate player, he’s a very fun player, and I think at different times as his teammate, if we were in a lull, I felt like it was on Jamaal and I to give ourselves a boost and he was definitely really good at that. He brought energy when we needed it, and he’s a tough runner. He’s not afraid to get downhill and run guys over, but I would also say he has a really good balance of being patient, letting the hole develop and then hitting it. And I think from the guys that I’ve played with, he’s definitely one of the best that sees things, lets it develop and then hits it.”
Jones (5-foot-9½, 208 pounds) gives the Packers a different body type than the bigger Williams.
The two hit it off almost immediately when they met at the Super Bowl, where Steinberg introduced them.
“We just stayed close from there,” Jones said. “We both played running back, and it helps when you’ve got somebody else seeing a different viewpoint than you. We just hit it off there and kept in contact and we’ve been friends ever since. [We’re] doubly excited that we are on the same team because I get to go through this with one of my friends.”
The two already know how to have fun at each other’s expense. As Jones spoke at one end of the Packers’ locker room, there was Williams at the other end ready to dish the truth about Jones.
“We’re not friends,” he said in a whisper. “I don’t really even like him.”
And then Williams laughed, adding: “Nah, he’s my friend. When I found out he was coming here, it was great to have somebody I already know. I’m grateful to have him here.”
No one even asked Williams and Jones if they wanted to be roommates at the Packers’ rookie minicamp. Jones checked into the hotel room first, but he should’ve known that Williams would join him there soon.
“I was actually like, ‘Man, who’s going to be my roommate?’” Jones recalled. “I saw him walk through the door, I was like, ‘I’m glad he’s my roommate.’”