It would be easy to call Quincy Williams a fish out of water. To be accurate, he's more of a linebacker out of water -- but not out of his element.
When he was drafted by Jacksonville in the third round in 2019 (96 picks after his brother, Jets DL Quinnen Williams) he told the Jaguars' website: "I love swimming. It was my first love."
He expanded on that, and a lot more in this week's edition of "The Official Jets Podcast," with team reporter Eric Allen and Leger Douzable, talking about his swimming, his good fortune on landing with the Green & White, his brother and Sunday's game against his former team (which cut him this past August).
"Swimming was more of an escape from the heat in Alabama," he said. "A coach saw me and said I could be real good. I just liked racing people. He asked if I could swim a lap holding my breath. You have to want it more than you want to breathe. [Swimming] helped me when I started playing football. In the offseason, swimming gives me a full-body workout. Controlling my breathing helps me out on the field because I can control my lungs."
He made the Junior Olympics in the freestyle and freestyle medley. He said that the butterfly in the medley was his weakest stroke, but also the one that helped him develop broad shoulders on his powerful 5-11, 225-pound body.
And out of the pool, the versatile Williams won the Alabama Class 5A high jump state title in 2013 with a leap of 6-2. He also competed in the long jump, the 100-meter dash and the 4×100 relay. Swimming and track took a back seat when he decided to concentrate on football, landing at Murray State.
Jets fans, however, know No. 56 as a revelatory addition to the roster, a guy plucked off the waiver wire by general manager Joe Douglas who has taken advantage of every opportunity to emerge as one of the feelgood stories of the 2021 NFL season. Depending on where you look, Williams either has 90 tackles (NFL website) or 93 (nyjets.com and pro-football-reference.com). Whatever the exact number, he's closing in on 100 tackles for the first time in his professional career.
"I was being realistic when I was cut by the Jaguars," he said. "They're one of the worst teams, record wise, and I don't want to downtalk anybody. The first couple of hours I took a break and thought about what I was going to do the rest of my life. It was not in my control. I just had to wait. The next day I got the call from the Jets. It's amazing playing with my [younger] brother. Every week I'm proving it was a mistake cutting me."
Williams did not nail down a starting job with the Jets from the get-go when he initially filled in for rookie an injured Jamien Sherwood, then contributed on special teams for four games when Sherwood returned. But when Sherwood ruptured his Achilles tendon, Williams grabbed the opportunity, and never let go. On Sunday at MetLife Stadium, Williams, 25, will have the opportunity to show the Jaguars exactly how wrong they were to drop the speedy, hard-hitting outside linebacker.
"Number one, I want to say that every game is a big game when it comes to the next game," he said. "This is a personal game for me, my preparation is going to be on point, that is not going to change. I can't make the game bigger than it is." He added: "It's still a game, not a rage game.
"In August, when I got cut, I was kind of down. When you get cut by any team, it's like your dream is ending. It's a blessing the Jets came along and saw me and gave me another shot. I've taken full advantage of my opportunity."
None more so than in the Jets 27-24 upset victory over Tennessee in overtime on Oct. 3. Quincy (1) and Quinnen (2) became the first pair of brothers with sacks in the same game for the same team since sacks became an official stat in 1982. They combined for 19 tackles, 12 by Quincy.
Heading into the game against the Jaguars, the Jets' official stats through 13 games have Quincy Williams with 93 tackles (64 solo) -- second on the team to C.J. Mosley -- 2 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 9 TFLs and 4 passes defended. Playing next to Mosley, a veteran and a past All-Pro, has helped shape his approach to the game on a new team.
"He helped elevate me a lot," Williams said. "When I first came into the league I didn't have that mentor. When I got here with C.J. he's someone who went to the Pro Bowl, which is what I want to do. He's a leader on and off the field. With him I learned from the football and his prep off the field, treatment leading up to a game. I took what he taught me and put my own twist to it."
Quincy said that he told his brother that the only thing he wants for Christmas is 100 tackles, which could be achieved on Sunday.
"I get to spend the day with my family and play a game after Christmas with my brother," he said. "I still write letters to Santa to keep in the spirit."
Once the offseason rolls around, Williams said he has plans to get back into the water. Not only a pool, but in the ocean.
"This offseason I do want to make free-diving a thing," he said. "I want to do scuba lessons also, deep-sea diving. Once when I was out there fishing we caught a red snapper, but the line broke. I jumped in the ocean, just grabbing it and getting it out."
Now he's grabbing opposing players on dry land ... a shark out of water.