It was a tough weekend for Ryan Williams in Foxboro, Massachusetts. He had just learned of the passing of his grandfather, a person that he was very close to in his life. Then, at the end of the Patriots match, he fumbled away what could have been the deciding factor in the game for the Arizona Cardinals.
Luckily, it wasn't, but it still provided Williams an opportunity to learn from his mistakes and grow as a man -- and as a player.
Coach Whisenhunt never lost his faith in Williams, relying on him to carry the Cardinals through the fourth quarter. He was tasked with draining out the clock, securing the ball and getting first downs if at all possible. He managed to do all of that before cramping up after a big play down the sidelines. It was then that the fans knew what Williams was made of.
Williams, too, knew he had ascended to the level of a pro football player. "I had that fumble last week," Williams said after the game. "After it happened, I ran on the treadmill for 15-20 minutes, but I had the ball in my hand and I switched the ball [to my other hand] every two minutes. And I made sure that I was fundamentally sound holding the ball. And I would admit that it happened so that it wouldn't happen again."
Williams' acknowledgement of his mistake was the first part of the process. Owning up to his mishap was a huge step towards success. Learning from them was the best possible course of action he could have taken. And that is exactly what he did.
"I feel like I've grown up as a man and as a person being a football player. It felt good to have people recognize that."
His teammates have taken notice of it, too. Take star receiver Larry Fitzgerald, for instance. He noted after the game that Williams' maturation process did not just begin with the fumble. It began with the rehab from his knee injury last season and we, as fans, are just now getting a glimpse of it. He has seen it all along.
"Everybody only sees Ryan when he's on the field," Fitzgerald said. "As teammates, you see him; you saw the agonizing surgery and the tough rehab and the tough days where he was hopping around on the cast. His spirits were down. We saw him every single day and you just try to encourage him. Tell him his opportunity is going to come. It's a ways away, but it's coming. To see him perform like he performed today, it's such a special thing as a teammate to see."
Williams noted that part of his process in growing as a football player comes with his conditioning. During the last drive during the fourth quarter, it was obvious that Williams was quite tired. If he wants to be used as the main running back in key situations, he realizes that is something he has to deal with. Again, it is all part of the maturation process.
"When the game is on the line and they rely on number 34, I can be out there."
That right there ladies and gentlemen, is the sign of a person that has learned from their mistakes, owned up to them and is ready to lead his team the next time he gets the chance. And that is exactly what Ryan Williams did on Sunday.
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