But the trademark dreadlocks are now gone, part of a wholesale change for the former Florida International standout during the offseason as he recommitted on getting better at his profession.
Williams said he had dreadlocks for four years, and that he always had long hair. He had not cut his hair since the third grade. But Williams went back to the same barber that cut his hair as an adolescent for a closely cropped fade.
“I debated for a long time whether I would keep them or not,” Williams said. “I talked to my mom and I just look at it as a fresh start for myself. I’m starting a new foundation, and I want to get things started in the right direction.”
The haircut was part of Williams refocusing on his craft. He always worked out during the offseason, but now the 24-year-old is paying more attention to his diet and recovery after workouts, along with working on improving weaknesses in his game, such as dropping in coverage and getting after the quarterback.
“I’m just working on beating the man in front of me,” Williams said. “As long as I can win, stay consistent and use my motor to my advantage, I feel like I can contribute. I got stronger this offseason, so that was big because I go knocked around a little bit last season, and I didn’t like that.
“I got more skillful at the linebacker position by just working on my drops and standing on my feet. My pass rush is better. I just feel like an overall better player.”
Williams said watching how friends -- such as Cincinnati Bengals pass rusher Carlos Dunlap and Jacksonville Jaguars safety Johnathan Cyprien, a former FIU teammate -- approach their work helped change his approach while working out in his hometown of Miami.
“I thought I was committed,” Williams said. “But when I take a look at it, I was just doing the minimum. And the minimum is not enough in this league. You will be gone from this league if all you do is the minimum.
“Before, I would go home and I would eat something unhealthy and be like, ‘It’s OK. I just worked out so it’s all good.’ But you have to watch what you eat. You have to make sure you get your treatments and your body feels good. And just kind of watching those guys during the offseason helped me get better.”
San Diego selected Williams in the sixth round of the 2013 draft. Because of injuries at the position, Williams played in 13 games his rookie season, starting six. He finished with 10 combined tackles and a sack in 2013.
Williams backed up Johnson last season and totaled 21 tackles in 127 defensive snaps. Williams also had 14 tackles on special teams, good enough for fifth on the team.
Johnson spoke highly of Williams last season as a player who could emerge as an impact player for the Chargers.
“He’s going to get a shot,” Johnson said. “I’m excited to see where he goes. He’s got a ton of upside.”
Williams appreciates the high praise from his former teammate, but he knows the words are hollow if he does not meet those expectations.
“It means a lot, especially coming from Jarrett,” Williams said. “He won’t say anything like that to you unless he means it. So for him to say that, I really appreciate it.
“I know I’m going to do a great job. But it’s just the timing of everything has to be on point. And the way I feel, and the way I’ve been working, I know everything will work in my favor. My faith is stronger, so I just feel better overall – spiritually, mentally and physically.”