Provo

When his Green Bay Packers teammates ask Jamaal Williams about his college years, he starts by saying, “Yeah, there’s an honor code ...”

That’s how Williams addressed his BYU experience Friday, appearing as part of a BYUtv show about ex-Cougars in pro football. The unspoken element of the discussion about how the school is perceived in the NFL was Williams’ having deferred his senior season for a year, withdrawing from BYU — he would later say he was “kicked out” for having sex — before returning and becoming the Cougars’ all-time rushing leader.

In some ways, Williams’ career path made him an unlikely figure to be showcased during the school’s annual Football Media Day. Maybe that’s the point, though. Williams just keeps coming back to BYU, whenever he’s needed.

“Loyalty’s a big thing,” he told The Salt Lake Tribune.

That’s why he rejoined the program in 2016, rather than transfer for his senior season. If his Packers teammates wonder about that choice, “The only answer I give ‘em is ‘football,’ ” he said during the TV show. “I just sacrificed for football.”

Williams thrived in his return, rushing for 1,375 yards and establishing himself as “one of the most-loved players that’s ever been through here,” said BYU’s Kalani Sitake, who coached him during that 9-4 season.

BYU lacks volume in developing NFL talent lately, compared with Utah and Utah State, but the Cougars are producing some good stories. Kyle Van Noy has started for New England in the last two Super Bowls. Taysom Hill debuted on special teams as a New Orleans rookie and is showing signs of becoming a genuine NFL quarterback. Ziggy Ansah will earn $17.1 million this season as a Detroit defensive end, after having become a BYU starter only in October of his senior year.

Entering his second year in Green Bay, Williams is in the mix to start at running back. He replaced an injured Ty Montgomery in the second half of last season and rushed for 556 yards. Because of Williams’ well-rounded game, some observers are giving him the edge in this summer’s competition with Montgomery, Aaron Jones and Utah State alum Devante Mays.

Whether the school gets credit for molding Williams or merely providing obstacles he had to overcome, BYU got him to Green Bay. Williams’ example shows that someone “can be himself at BYU,” Sitake said, “and have success.”

Well, that’s true within some boundaries that are not in place on other campuses. Having recovered from a knee injury in November of his junior season of 2014, Williams was eager to play the next year, expressing excitement during his Media Day appearance that summer. By August, he was gone from Provo, accepting former coach Bronco Mendenhall’s suggestion that he withdraw from school with the public explanation of “personal reasons.”

In an extensive Bleacher Report profile in advance of the 2017 NFL draft, Williams said having sex was the reason he was forced to leave.

It all worked out well, though. “I’m happy for myself; I’m proud of myself for just staying with it … finishing what I started,” Williams said Friday.

“He had some difficulty along the way,” Sitake said, “but we demand guys do things a bit differently here and I think he’s been a huge [beneficiary] of that.”

Williams departed as BYU’s career rushing leader with 3,901 yards after a senior season highlighted by his 286-yard effort against Toledo, another school record.

That’s all part of why Williams is remembered well in Provo and why he can look back with satisfaction and appreciation of BYU. “You can’t be mad at the school,” he said, “for the consequences that come from your actions.”

The school’s standards once drove him away, but he came back. And now, he’s an honor code advocate — to this extent, anyway. Without it, he acknowledged with a wry grin during the TV show, “I’d probably be a wild man.”

JAMAAL WILLIAMS BY THE NUMBERS

At BYU

2012 • 13 games, 166 carries, 775 yards (4.7), 12 touchdowns.

2013 • 12 games, 217 carries, 1,233 yards (5.7), seven touchdowns.

2014 • 8 games, 109 carries, 518 yards (4.8), four touchdowns.

2016 • 10 games, 234 carries, 1,375 yards (5.9), 12 touchdowns.

At Green Bay

2017 • 16 games, 153 carries, 556 yards (3.6), four touchdowns.