Three unsuccessful walk-on tryouts were enough to deter a Purdue football player from his dream, until he caught an unexpected break while playing club rugby.
“One day while I was playing rugby, a weight lifting coach saw me play and he said he could help me get on the football team,” sophomore linebacker Jules Williams said.
Williams tried out for the football team twice his freshman year and once his sophomore year, but failed to impress the coaching staff. The Indianapolis native decided to hang up the pads and start playing rugby.
When the weight lifting coach asked Williams to come meet some of the football coaches, he was reluctant at first but decided to give it a try.
“I worked out with the team over the summer and they added me to the roster for the season,” Williams said.
With an athletic 6-foot-3, 243-pound frame, Williams fits the physical role of a Big Ten linebacker. Purdue head coach Danny Hope said the sophomore has a body built for football.
“Just the way he looks sticks out,” Hope said. “It’s funny how things worked out. We were low number-wise at linebacker (last spring) and he came out toward the end of practices. Next thing you know he is in the spring game and gets an interception.”
Joey Mustaklem, a senior in the College of Technology, has played with the Purdue rugby club for four years. Mustaklem said in his time playing rugby, he’s never seen a player as big as Williams.
“Nobody we played was ever as (big) as Jules,” Mustaklem said. “He’s just a downright animal.”
At first, Mustaklem said it took Williams a while to get used to the endurance of rugby, but once Williams got in better shape, he was virtually unstoppable.
“I’ve seen him run through five defenders before,” Mustaklem said. “One match, Jules turned the entire scrum 90 degrees by himself just for us to get the ball back. He would muscle the whole scrum to the other side.”
Williams let all his friends and family know when he tried out for the football team a fourth time.
“Everybody knew he wanted to be on the football team,” Mustaklem said. “I was so happy for him. That was his big goal and he got it.”
Williams still has his work cut out for him to get playing time on Saturdays, but with the recent dismissal of Dwayne Beckford, and Mike Lee out due to concussions, Williams could see the field sooner than expected.