Former BYU running back Jamaal Williams breaks Barry Sanders’ touchdown record, gives viral interview

The Detroit Lions back’s eventful night included an all-time postgame interview and player introduction.

(Mike Roemer | AP) Detroit Lions running back Jamaal Williams celebrates with fans following an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, in Green Bay, Wis. The Lions won 20-16.

Former BYU running back Jamaal Williams broke Barry Sanders’ single-season franchise touchdown record on Sunday, then proceeded to capture the nation’s attention for a completely different host of reasons on the Sunday Night Football broadcast.

Williams scored twice Sunday to give him 17 touchdowns on the year, passing Sanders (16 in 1991) for most touchdowns in a season by a Detroit Lions player.

During the NFL’s final regular season game, Williams went viral multiple times for his whirlwind mix of authenticity, passion and humor.

It was evidenced after the game, in an on-field interview, where Williams went from breaking down in tears to giving an impassioned speech all in a matter of seconds. It was a transition so stark it had people calling it one of the more memorable post-game interviews in recent memory.

“My great-grandfather died on me and I just dedicate this to him,” Williams started. “I’m just grateful to do this for him. My grandfather, he was 92. I’m just grateful for him to be in my life and do this for him. There are a lot of memories and emotions happening.”

Seconds after he spoke about his family, Williams gave a monologue about how the Lions were counted out before a 20-16 upset of the Packers.

“And another thing, stop playing us man,” he said. “We the Detroit Lions, the Detroit Lions. Stop playing with us.”

NBA star LeBron James quickly led the charge in support of Williams on a night that became all about the six-year NFL veteran.

“I love this kid so much,” James wrote. “So dope. You have a fan in me Jamaal!”

Williams rushed for 17 touchdowns this season, breaking the franchise record previously held by Sanders. He went into Sunday night needing one touchdown to tie the record, but ended up scoring twice. His last score was a game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter that kept the Green Bay Packers out of the playoffs.

Also on Sunday night, Williams became just the second BYU running back to record a 1,000-yard rushing season in the NFL. Rookie Tyler Allgeier on the Atlanta Falcons became the first just hours before him.

Of course, it wasn’t just Williams’ comments after the game that had him at the center of discussion.

During the game as well, Williams used his introduction on Sunday Night Football to say he was, “Swag Kazekage, Leader of the Hidden Village of the Den.” Typically players just say their name and where they went to school.

On a night that was supposed to be about Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers getting a signature victory, it ended up being Williams who stole the spotlight.