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Damien Williams: A Story of Trials and Triumph

Damien Williams: Castoff to Super Bowl Champ
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 Let’s face it. Everyone loves a good underdog story. And when it comes to underdogs, it doesn’t get much better than Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams. Williams made history in Super Bowl 54 when he became the first player to run for over 100 yards while recording a rushing and receiving touchdown. His 38-yard touchdown run in the 4th quarter sealed the win and Kansas City’s first super bowl win since 1970. Williams’ performance during the Chiefs super bowl run will stand the test of time. From community college prospect to super bowl hero, this is the story of Damien Williams. 

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Damien Williams: Humble Beginnings

Williams was born on April 3rd, 1992 in San Diego, California. He was raised by his mother Virleanna Alexander along with his younger brothers Xavier and Delvin Alexander.

“My mom is really involved. She has done everything herself.”  Williams said. 

 Damien Williams began his high school career at El Cajon High School. While he starred on the football field as a freshman on varsity, he struggled in the classroom. According to sandiegotribune.com, Williams admitted that he wasn’t concerned with academics and focused his attention on the field and his social life. After Williams’s mother moved the family to Kearny in San Diego,  Damien took his sophomore year off from sports to improve his academic standing.

Shortly after this sophomore year, Virleanna moved the family to the Mira Mesa area of San Diego, where Williams played his last two years of high school football. He went on to break the school’s rushing record with 2,003 yards in his senior season. After a superb high school career, Williams was set to attend Arizona State University. Unfortunately for Williams, academic troubles presented a roadblock. The first of many he’d face in his career.

College Career 

Williams didn’t meet the required ACT score for Arizona State, so he enrolled at  Arizona Western College, a community college in Yuma, Arizona. As a freshman, he racked up 723 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns. In his sophomore season, Williams flew up the recruiting boards after he ran for 1,931 yards and 26 touchdowns. He also added 20 receptions and 320 yards receiving with 4 scores, and even threw for 2 touchdowns. A 3-star recruit, Williams landed offers from Oklahoma, Arizona State, USC, and Oregon among others.  Williams committed to Oklahoma to play for head coach Bob Stoops.  

Williams led the team on the ground with 946 yards and 11 touchdowns. He became a national star after his 95-yard touchdown run in 65-21 win over Texas. The team went on to finish the season with a 10-3 record and Williams was named second-team All Big 12 by league coaches.  

Heading into the 2013 season, Williams was placed on the preseason watchlist for the Doak Walker award. Williams went on to play 9 games that season, rushing for 553 yards and 7 touchdowns. In November 2013, news broke that he was suspended for a game due to a violation of team rules. Details were scarce, and Head Coach Bob Stoops refused to address specifics. Shortly after, reports followed that Williams was no longer on the team at all, which Stoops eventually confirmed. 

“ Damien Williams has been removed from the football team. He is no longer with the team.”

And just like that, William’s college football career was over. Considering the fact that William’s was a senior, many wondered what was next for his career. 

Post-College

After time passed, The Sooners allowed William’s to participate in Oklahom’s 2014 pro day. 

“It was great. Being able to come back after the situation that happened was great, and me and Coach Stoops talked and there’s no hard feelings. He let me come back and do the pro day. I feel great,” Williams said. 

Wlliams performed well in pre-draft testing, running a 4.45 second forty-yard dash, and recorded a vertical leap of 35.5 inches. Williams also had 4.25 second 20-yard shuttle and 16 reps of 225 lbs on the bench press. He went undrafted and signed a free agent deal with the Miami Dolphins. 

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NFL Career 

Just like high school and college, it didn’t take Williams long to establish himself on the field. He quickly impressed coaches with his ability to run and catch the ball out of the backfield. Head coach Joe Philbin made Williams the team’s designated 3rd down running back early in his rookie season. He finished his rookie season with 309 yards from scrimmage and 1 touchdown in limited duty. 

Despite Damien’s ability as a multipurpose back, his next few years in Miami were largely unspectacular. In 2015, he only carried the football 16 times for 59 yards. He continued to play well in the passing game, but it didn’t amount to more opportunities on the ground. He managed to score 3 touchdowns in 2016, but only carried the football 35 times for 115 yards.  

By 2017, Williams finally got a chance to start for the Dolphins. After the trade of Jay Ajayi, Williams was finally able to take over. He only started 4 games before a dislocated shoulder ended his season. This injury subsequently ended his career in Miami, who decided to let Williams go. 

When reflecting back on his time in Miami, Williams says leaving allowed him to take the next step in his maturation process and said “…Everything is timing. It wasn’t my time. Being a young kid, and leaving Miami forced me to grow up a little bit.”

Williams signed with the Chiefs in March 2018. He ran for 256 yards and 4 touchdowns while hauling in 23 passes for 160 yards and two receiving scores. After Hunt’s release, his opportunities increased. The Chiefs finished the season with a 12-4 record. After defeating the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional round, the Chiefs fell 37-31 to the New England Patriots a week later in the AFC Championship game. His play earned him a 2-year, 8 million extension in December 2018. 

Championship Run

After falling just short of the Super Bowl, the Chiefs were, once again, contenders heading into the 2019 season. Despite injury troubles, Williams played in 11 games and ran for a career high 498 yards and 5 touchdowns, including a 91-yard touchdown run against the Minnesota Vikings in week 9. He continued to produce in the passing game with a career high 30 receptions. This set the stage for his playoff performance

In the playoffs, Williams took his game to another level. In the Chiefs 24 point comeback effort against the Houston Texans, Williams scored 3 touchdowns, (2 rush, 1 receiving) in the 51-31 victory. Against Tennessee in the AFC Championship game, he racked up 89 total yards and 1 touchdown to help the Chiefs win 31-20. He saved his best for last against San Francisco, with 133 all-purpose yards and the aforementioned game-winning touchdown to seal the deal.

Damien Williams is another member in a long line of underdogs who defied the odds and achieved the ultimate triumph. This is just another step in his journey as an athlete and as a person and it certainly won’t be the last we hear of him.

“It’s crazy. It doesn’t feel real yet. When you get into the league, you think about the Super Bowl. You think about what you would do in it, and for it to be where I started my career at, undrafted, it means alot.”

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Author

  • An avid sports fan and aspiring journalist who’s just trying to make it in the world. Louisiana born but Oklahoma made. Proud Alumni of Langston University.