BATON ROUGE, La. — It would be so much more fitting if Greedy Williams had earned his nickname on the football field.
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That’s also where he has an insatiable desire to be considered the best. When asked at the Tigers’ pro day if he believes he is the top cornerback in this year’s draft, Greedy replied with a big smile and an incredulous, “What?! What?!” before going into a speech about how the “stats don’t lie.”
And the football field is where Greedy has gone to work, hoping to use his talent to create a better life for his family — including his 2-year-old daughter, Khloe, and his mother, Lakesha Williams, a single parent who raised four kids in some of the roughest neighborhoods of Shreveport, Louisiana, before she wound up marrying Greedy’s youth football coach.
“Football changed my family’s life,” Greedy said.
The real story is that Andraez Williams became known as “Greedy” when he was 1 month old. That’s when Lakesha’s aunt started calling him “Greedy Deedy” because of the way he gulped through his full supply of bottles so quickly.
But it didn’t take long before he started living up to the hype that comes with a name like that. As his coach-turned-stepfather, Lonnie Bryant, likes to say, Greedy was a “shutdown corner” from the time he started playing football at the age of 5. Even though teams didn’t throw the ball much at that age, Bryant said they all liked to run wide around the edges. And none of them could get around Greedy.
“I knew his time would come, because he just wanted it. He wanted it badder than anybody,” said Greedy’s older brother, Rodarius, who plays cornerback at Oklahoma State. “From him being that hard worker and wanting to be greedy — he’s got the perfect name, because he never gave up on anything.”
Rodarius, who is one year older, naturally boasted that he always used to beat Greedy in everything from sports to video games, “you name it.” But he said that just led to Greedy nagging him with demands like, “Let’s try it again, let’s do it again. You can’t beat me this time. Play me again.”
“If you see that passion in his eyes the first time he touched a football, man it was amazing,” said Rodarius, who was nicknamed “LeeLee” growing up. “We watched him from the house because they practiced outside the house. When we just watched him run up and down the field, I’m like, ‘Is he really doing this?’ He was just running all over the young guys.”
Even more amazing was the way Greedy’s involvement with football wound up transforming the entire family.
Lakesha had her first daughter at age 14. And she doesn’t try to sugarcoat what life was like for her, Greedy, Rodarius and sisters Keandre and Andrea.
“Single mother, young mother, on assistance from the government, housing assistance. We were just going from — I guess I call it from one ‘hood to another ‘hood,” said Lakesha, who described Greedy’s biological father as being in and out of his life.
But Greedy’s passion for football and early success in the sport gave the family something to rally around. Rodarius started playing soon after, too.
Top CB draft prospect Greedy Williams showed off his confidence, among other skills, at LSU’s pro day Friday. When asked if he’s the best cornerback in the draft, Williams smiled and replied, “What?!” Video by Mike Triplett.
Then the biggest transformation came a few years later, when Lonnie became both a coach and father. “I call Lonnie our hero,” Lakesha said. “Because he matured me, let me see the bigger picture, there’s other things in life. We didn’t know what going out of town was until we met him. So we were taking trips and getting into sports, and I got to learn about sports and got more involved.
“Along with Greedy — I would say he’s the hero, too. Because he’d look at the kids practicing football and said he wanted to play football, too. And I’d say from then on it changed our lives.”
Not only did they move into a better neighborhood together, but the boys credit Lonnie for helping teach them how to be men — and to be fathers. (Rodarius is expecting his first daughter to be born this week.) Lonnie was also an anchor for the family when Lakesha battled cancer about 10 years ago. The rest of the family considers Lakesha a hero as well.
“She’s been all of our rock. I don’t know what I’d do without her … I think at that time they needed me — and I needed them. That slowed me down a little bit, because I became more of a family man,” said Lonnie, who runs the Xpress Sports youth programs in Shreveport, where he also coached fellow LSU first-round draft prospect Devin White as a basketball player on Greedy’s teams when they were in junior high.
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“It’s still kind of crazy to me. I don’t even know how she did it, man,” Rodarius said. “Just from working at a hotel to taking care of four kids, day in and day out, making sure we had everything that we need. Man, she did a phenomenal job just staying on us and making sure we didn’t end up like other people we were surrounded with, where we grew up from.
“I’m just lost for words, man. I still don’t know how she did it.”
Greedy already bought his great grandmother her first set of new furniture recently, which touched Lakesha quite a bit. But he has even bigger plans for his mom once he gets his first signing bonus.
“That’s my motivation right there,” Greedy said. “Just watching my mom struggle to get to work, to take care of four kids on her own. Just watching things like that as a kid just makes you want to be in this position where I’m at to be able to just give her the world.
“Give her anything she wants, because she definitely deserves it, how hard she worked for us.”
As for Khloe, whose name is tattooed across the upper half of Greedy’s back, she can have “the whole [bank] account if she needs it.”
Greedy and White both have big plans to give back to the “318,” too, after they begin their promising NFL careers. The two of them have become close since they first met around age 12, each describing the other as a “brother.”
“I trust Greedy with my life, man,” White said. “If you cut him open, I might bleed. That’s how close we are together. I’d give him the clothes off my back.”
Greedy, who is the No. 25 overall prospect in the draft according to Scouts Inc., still has some odds to overcome, however, if they’re both going to meet their goal of becoming top-10 picks.
Back in January, ESPN draft analysis Mel Kiper Jr. had Greedy projected as the No. 4 overall pick in his first mock draft, comparing the 6-foot-2, 185-pounder to Aqib Talib. But earlier this week, Kiper had him all the way down at No. 29 in his latest mock draft, explaining, “there are questions about his willingness to tackle and about his fluidity in coverage.”
Greedy, who was a second-team Associated Press All-American last season and a first-team selection by some other organizations, has heard questions about his tackling from NFL teams as well.
But his answer is that he wasn’t asked to tackle that much as a man-to-man corner in college.
“I’m not scared to tackle,” Greedy said. “Look, I’m coming with full force. You put me in a Cover 2 zone, you’ll see how I hit. Like I told the scouts, you put me in Cover 2 and that tight end runs in the zone, I’ll show you what I can do.”
Greedy said he’ll play wherever teams want him to line up. But he does consider man-to-man coverage his strength — as he displayed in a signature performance last season against Ole Miss receiver D.K. Metcalf, among others.
“Man-to-man, I can shut anybody down,” said Greedy, who described his bravado as “who I am.”
“A guy who can talk and back it up,” Greedy said. “I’ve got that confidence in me. If I say it, I’ve got to do it, I’ve got to prove it. So it’s been proven.”
Greedy’s 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine turned heads — he tied for second among all cornerbacks with a time of 4.37 seconds. His other drills at LSU’s pro day weren’t quite as elite, but he said he was happy with his performance.
No matter where he gets drafted next month, Greedy and the Williams family are already an inspiring success story. All four of Lakesha’s kids graduated high school, and three of them went to college — the kind of life she wanted for them when she wasn’t able to finish school.
And now a family that once didn’t “know what going out of town was” is planning to be together in Nashville, Tennessee, next month for the NFL draft.
“It doesn’t feel real, really,” Lakesha said. “I’m just happy, I really am. I’m happy for him most of all, because he worked so hard for it.
“He deserves every moment, every spotlight. Whatever it is, he deserves it.”