FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — From one No. 92 to another, Leonard Williams took as much from Michael Strahan as he possibly could when the two defensive linemen — one a Hall of Famer and the other a guy with dreams of getting to Canton — spoke at Jets camp two weeks ago.
“It was amazing,” Williams said of meeting Strahan, the former Giants star who took in a Jets practice. The two spoke for several minutes afterward.
“Every time I’m around a Hall of Famer, it’s really like unbelievable to be around them,” Williams said. “Their mindsets are programed way different than a regular person. They just are all about winning, they’re all about getting better. They’re never complacent, never feel like they have it all.”
Williams listened with rapt attention as Strahan shared some tips about what can help the Jets third-year defensive lineman achieve results similar to that of the former Giants defensive end.
“They’re always working to get better, and that’s something Strahan was telling me,” Williams said. “It’s that he believed in himself, first of all, and he just worked hard.”
Williams can only aspire to produce the kind of career Strahan had from 1993-2007, when he recorded a franchise record 141 ½ sacks and won a Super Bowl in his final season. The Giants beat the previously unbeaten Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, and Strahan was part of a defensive front that helped shut down Tom Brady’s high-powered offense.
Williams doesn’t shy away from wanting to be great, and embraces being the face of the Jets’ franchise, even though he’s just entering his third NFL season.
“I welcome that all the time,” he said of being such a recognizable player. “I don’t like losing. I like to be a winner, and I like to be a leader. Every program that I’ve been a part of, I’ve naturally been able to get in a leading position. It’s not because I force myself to that position. It’s because I show up to work and I make sure my teammates are doing the same thing. I think that’s the main part about being a leader, not focusing on yourself, but focusing on your teammates.”
But Williams believes he needs to be an even more forceful voice on the field and in the locker room.
“I don’t really have any statistical goals, but I have a personal goal of being a better leader to my teammates, raising expectations and just setting the bar of expectation on how to practice and how to come out every day and work hard,” he said.
There are still times he needs to say more, even if it means saying some things his teammates might not like hearing.
“Something that I believe I’m still not doing is stepping out of my comfort zone, speaking up when I have to and not if somebody’s going to like it or not, just knowing when I have to speak up,” he said. “Just getting on my teammates, not because I want to put them down, but because I want to raise them up. They might not always like it, but just staying on top of them.”
There’s another chance to impose his will on Saturday, as Williams, the No. 6 overall pick in 2015, prepares for his third Jets-Giants preseason game. It’s the team’s most important dress rehearsal for the regular-season opener on Sept. 10 in Buffalo, and the starters are expected to see their most extended playing time in the preseason.
The final score won’t count in the standings, but it will for Williams.
“I don’t like losing, so every game matters to me, whether it’s preseason or whether it goes to our regular season,” he said. “I like to win. Winning is fun. So this game is supposed to be fun, and that’s the funnest part, is winning.”