New QB Jordan Williams brings hope to the struggling Helsinki Wolverines

It takes a lot of things to make a good football team. You need quality coaching, defining stars, and reliable play in the trenches, but above all else a good team needs hope. A belief that no matter the circumstances, they can come out on top.

The Helsinki Wolverines were badly in need of some hope. They think they found some in the form of quarterback Jordan Williams.

After reaching the Maple Bowl a year ago, the Wolverines now sit near the bottom of the Finnish league after a 1-4 start to the year. Boasting the second-worst scoring offense in the nation, nothing was going right. It was enough to make the difficult decision to move away from starter Cedric Johnson and bring in the Memphis, Tennessee native for a fresh start.

Jumping into a struggling team mid-season is no easy task, but Williams believes the results are already starting to show.

“Having to meet the guys, gel with them right away and get the game plan without any camp or even practices really, it was definitely a different experience,” he said earlier this week. “I think it’s gone well so far.  The guys are all pretty much bought in to the system and we’re getting on the same page.”

Wolverines QB Joran Williams throwing one of his 31 passes against Kuopio Steelers in his debut game Photo: Jari Turunen

Williams is an unproven commodity in Europe but after transferring from Jackson State as a senior, showed flashes of major potential in his only season as a starter for Central Methodist University. Throwing for an impressive 2,183 yards passing and 16 touchdowns, while rushing for 349 yards and another 11 scores, the true dual-threat earned himself Heart All-Conference Second Team honors in 2019 and began to entertain dreams of a pro career. That is no easy feat for an NAIA passer.

“I had a lot of interviews, a couple of NFL teams, a lot of CFL. Just people going around asking and getting the buzz, things like that,” Williams explained. “I started reaching out to different coaches and GMs and they started hitting me up on different sites, Instagram and Facebook. Word of mouth really just grew and then I met Coach Morgan.”

That would be Brett Morgan, a regional scout with the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL and veteran international coach in Brazil, Italy, and Turkey. The evaluator saw a diamond in the rough, someone with a desire to play and the potential to improve.

“Jordan is smart. I think he’s an excellent athlete and when you watch him play, he makes an effort to be on time with the football,” Morgan said of the prospect all the way back in April. “When things do break down, he can make the reactionary second play with his athleticism. That’s an important component to all levels of football right now.”

Morgan recruited Williams to come to Turkey and be his quarterback with the Yeditepe Eagles. It was a perfect fit with only one problem, the COVID-19 pandemic. Turkey was hit hard by a second and third wave, delaying Williams’ arrival. Then, after months of postponement, the season was canceled, squashing the quarterback’s first pro shot.

Nevertheless, Morgan remains a crucial piece of his journey, showing him the ropes of how to catch the eye of teams in Europe that Williams had no idea existed back in college.

“I definitely appreciate him for the knowledge he instilled in me, believing in me and trusting me with his team that he had there,” Williams acknowledged. “I hate that I didn’t get a chance to really go through a season with him, but the time that we spent with the installs, learning the zone calls and things like that, I definitely appreciate him for.”

The sudden Turkish cancellation before he even set foot in the country is what brought Williams to Finland, contacted out of the blue by Wolverines head coach Mike Mattingly to join the team on short notice. His signing was announced on a Tuesday and he started that same Saturday, absorbing a 44-6 drubbing at the hands of the undefeated defending champion Kuopio Steelers.

Wolverines QB Jordan Williams looking downfield Photo: Jari Turunen

That wasn’t the result he wanted for his European debut, but it came with important lessons.

“We learned that we’ve got to come together as a unit and work 10 times harder, do the extra reps and extra film studies to get on the same page,” Williams emphasized. “I know the result wasn’t what we wanted, but we actually had some positives coming out of the game. Of course, we had negatives, but nothing that we can’t build on and progress with going forward.”

He’ll get his shot at redemption Sunday against the United Newland Crusaders, the only team the Wolverines managed to beat before his arrival. Williams doesn’t take the game lightly but it’s more than just a win this week that he wants. He sees Helsinki as a team poised to shock the nation with a late-season turnaround.

“I believe in those guys and I feel like they believe in me. We believe in Coach Mike. Our defense is pretty hard-nosed as well. I think we still have all of our dreams in front of us,” Williams insisted. “We can still do everything that we set out to do this season, make it to the Maple Bowl and all of that. I  don’t want anyone to think that we’re just giving up or falling short of anything that we strive to do. We’re definitely still on the same path that they started the season with.”

Hope. It’s exactly what his team needs.

Watch the Wolverines take on the United Newland Crusaders, Sunday, July 25 on, 17:30 CET (5:30 pm, 11:30 am ET).

J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.