Before playing the final game of the season, new Giant Leonard Williams tackled some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby:
Q: What has it been like for you being a Giant?
A: It feels like a fresh start. It feels like the Giants are proud to have me here, and that’s a good feeling.
Q: How much do you want to be here?
A: They showed a lot of interest in having me here, obviously. They went out of their way to reach out and get me to be on the team, and I love New York. I love where I’m at. I’d want to stay here.
Q: Have negotiations on a new contract started?
A: I’m not sure if there has been negotiation talks. It’s probably been through them and my agents, and my agents probably haven’t told me ’cause they want me to focus on the season.
Q: For Giants fans, what’s the percentage that you’ll be back here as a Giant?
A: I mean, pretty high percentage. I played my whole career in New York. … Like I said, they showed interest in having me here, and I like the colors, I like my team, I like it here. And hopefully something gets worked out.
Q: You can become a free agent for the first time.
A: It’s hard for me to speak on this stuff because I’ve never been in this situation before and I’ve never been such a football fan that I’ve paid attention to when people hit free agency, like why do they hit free agency and what happens and all that type of stuff. I’ve always just played football, and whatever happens, happens, you know? Playing this game, I’ve never gone into it thinking about money and those type of dreams. I never thought about like the cars and the houses and stuff that you can get from playing football. I literally just love playing football. It got me a scholarship [at USC]. I kept playing football and then it got me drafted. I feel like if I continue to live my career in football that way — where I just put it all on the field and whatever happens, happens — I think it’ll work out however it should.
Q: But you would welcome if you never even got to free agency and the Giants locked you up?
Q: What do you like about playing in New York so much?
A: It’s a good media, good market. … If you’re a winning team in New York, the sky’s the limit. I think I’ve been losing in New York long enough, and I want to be able to be on a team that’s in New York that turns this thing around and get it headed in the right direction and start winning again and bringing New York back to the top.
Q: Do you have any kind of chip or motivation to prove the Jets wrong for not wanting to keep you?
A: I felt like initially, maybe I had like a little bit of a chip, like: Why didn’t they want me? But when I looked at the big picture and thought about everything and broke everything down, I realize everything happened for a reason and timing is everything, and at the time when I got drafted, it was my time to go to the Jets, they gave me my first opportunity into the NFL, and now another team just wanted me more.
Q: Some fans and media have ripped the trade (the Giants gave up a third-round pick and a fifth-round pick that becomes a fourth if Williams signs with the Giants) because you’re not a sack guy. What would you say to them?
A: I would just say that you could tell them I’m around the quarterback all game. Every year that I’ve been in the league, I’ve been around the quarterback. I got a Pro Bowl year from getting [seven] sacks. I had five sacks last year, two taken away. I’ve already had some taken away this year. I feel like literally the sack is probably the one thing that you could point out negative about my game. If that’s the only thing, then I wouldn’t say that I’m a bad player, obviously. That’s clearly why the Giants wanted me ’cause they know I’m not a bad player either. And I feel like being around the quarterback that much, if you’re constantly around the quarterback, eventually it’s just gonna pop and you’re gonna be getting the sacks, you know what I mean?
Q: Can you see yourself as a 10-sack guy?
A: Definitely. I almost led the league in quarterback sacks for guys in the interior like almost every year. I think it’s just one inch away, or sometimes not getting a penalty in the back end or something like that. All the negativity that comes towards me just from not getting sacks is falsely judging my ability to play football because of a sack number, when I’m constantly affecting the quarterback and hitting them and causing interceptions. I remember when I was still on the Jets and I hit Tom Brady and it caused an interception for Trumaine Johnson, and everybody was telling him to keep the ball and he came up to me and was like, “Yo, this is your ball — you caused the interception.” It’s stuff like that that fans don’t see, and I think what it is, is it’s such a fantasy football-type of league nowadays where fans, all they see is the numbers because it’s such a social media fantasy football-type of sport nowadays, that it’s like if they don’t see the stat of a sack or something like that, they don’t really know what you did in the game.
Q: Some people say you haven’t lived up to the sky-high expectations as the sixth pick of the 2015 draft because of the sack numbers. Do you think you’ve lived up to your expectations?
A: Definitely. Knowing where I came from, I never would have seen myself playing this far into the league in the first place. I definitely feel like besides the sack numbers, you really can’t say anything about my game. If it’s limited just to that one stat that people want to think negatively about me, I can’t really let that affect my life.
Q: Do you have any figure in mind for how much you think you’re worth?
A: I have no idea. We’re gonna have to figure it out.
Q: What’s the difference between Daniel Jones and Sam Darnold?
A: They’re both really good, young quarterbacks. They both are really good runners as well, athletically in the pocket and being able to scramble around. They both are really calm when stuff starts to get pretty intense. I think they both understand the situation of the game pretty well.
Q: You think both of them can be how good?
A: I think both of them can be great. I think they definitely both show a lot of promise into being a great quarterback in this league.
Q: How would you compare Quinnen Williams with Dexter Lawrence?
A: Different attributes. Dexter’s a really huge human being. I think it’s hard for people to move him, even on double teams and stuff like that. And he’s also athletic, which plays into a nasty combination being that big and athletic. Q is a little quicker, a little faster, a little shorter and smaller, but has good pad leverage and he comes off low on the ball.
Q: The Giants’ defensive tradition?
A: Michael Strahan, Lawrence Taylor, all those guys, even Pepper Johnson, who coached me my first year in the NFL, he used to talk a lot about that defense. I already know how nasty of a defense they’re used to having. Justin Tuck, that whole D-line that they had, Osi Umenyiora and stuff.
Q: What do you remember when Geno Smith got punched by IK Enemkpali in the Jets locker room?
A: I honestly didn’t see anything going on. I just remember there was a crowd circling around. And then I just remember Geno had to go to the training room. It happened like right before practice.
Q: How about Sheldon Richardson and Brandon Marshall in the locker room in Kansas City?
A: You’re in a locker room with 50-plus people, and we’re all males and we’re all competing, and there’s a lot of testosterone. Sometimes you have disagreements with people, and that’s pretty much all it was. There wasn’t a fight, it was nothing crazy, it was just a small disagreement, but obviously, media hypes stuff up sometimes (chuckle).
Q: Favorite Jets moment?
A: I think one of ’em was when we beat the Patriots [26-20 in overtime]. I think it was my rookie year , and we almost went to the playoffs that year, but we lost [the following week] to Buffalo that kept us out of the playoffs.
Q: What does it cost you for a haircut?
A: It costs me about 80 bucks, only because I have the guy come to my house, so I pay him kinda for the commute.
Q: Where does he live?
A: He lives in New York.
Q: In Manhattan?
A: Yeah, and I live like deep in Jersey, so it’s like 50 minutes. So sometimes I give him like $100, a little bit more.
Q: How did you find this person?
A: [Former Jets cornerback] Dexter McDougle had a barber [John] and would cut everybody at his house, and then I ended up getting his number and had him come to my house. I literally just get like a little taper type of thing and he trims up my beard and stuff like that. I don’t really get my hair haircut unless I go back home and my mom cuts it or something like that.
Q: Tell me about your 6-year-old daughter Leana’s personality.
A: She reminds me a lot of myself. She loves animals. She loves to be really chill. What my mom always tells me about myself when I was little is that I loved my quiet time and liked alone time and stuff like that. My daughter’s pretty much the same way.
Q: Explain why she means what she means to you.
A: She’s added way more responsibility to my life than ever before. And it’s like weird — you see yourself in another being, and like something that you created. She means the world to me, and I want to give her the world.
Q: New Year’s resolutions?
A: I haven’t made any yet, but I would say come back next season with a lower body fat percentage. I think I have to work on some.
Q: What is your body fat percentage now?
A: I’m like 14 percent right now.
Q: What do you want to get it down to?
A: Maybe like 12, 11.
Q: Why is that?
A: I feel like if I have less body fat and more lean mass, I’ll get tired less and be able to go longer.
Q: What drives you?
A: Just my love for the game, really. How much this game has given me. Like I said, I didn’t realize that I would have been able to go to such a prestige college and make it to the NFL and travel and do all these things that I’ve been able to do and provide for my family. I think football has given me a lot of opportunity and I want to give back.
Q: Growing up you had to live in motels and in homeless shelters at times?
A: It was hard for me to notice exactly what was going on while I was a kid — I almost felt like it was normal or something. … I knew it wasn’t completely normal ’cause I knew other kids weren’t going to homeless shelters and stuff like that, but I think at the time, it wasn’t affecting me how I guess it would affect most kids. I still had a loving family, and all my family was together. There were times where we would be living really good when my dad had a good job or something like that, and there were times we were living bad. Having both helped me be like a really balanced kid and helped me learn to not take things for granted and also not to be too attached to things as well, you know?
Q: Favorite place you’ve been to?
A: So far, I think maybe Thailand has been my favorite. I think it was cool just because I stayed in the Bangkok area for a little bit so I was able to bounce around and see all the temples and fun stuff like that — they had like a floating river market. And then I was also able to go up to Chiang Mai, which is northern Thailand, and we went to this elephant sanctuary thing and it was pretty awesome.
Q: Why is the best yet to come for Leonard Williams?
A: I think the best is yet to come for me still because I’m still young, I still have a lot left in the tank, I still have a lot to do. I still have a lot of goals and aspirations, and I’m definitely not done. I’m on a new team, and I want to keep proving to this new team why they made the right choice in bringing me here.