This isn’t Aaron Williams’ first comeback season.
"The 2015 season could not have started off any better," he writes in a piece for BuffaloBills.com "Rex (Ryan) had us firing on defense and I even snagged a pick as we handled the Indianapolis Colts in the season opener. Week Two had us slated to play the New England Patriots at Ralph Wilson Stadium — I think all Bills fans know the implications of that."
Instead of a landmark victory, Williams suffered a scary neck injury in a 40-32 loss to Pats. In his piece for the Bills website, the Texas Ex and DBU alum recounts the injury, the aftermath and his second comeback — the one happening now.
First, Williams recounts the play that essentially ended his 2015 season:
Our defense was in a sub package and we had just barely gotten the play call in with the offense hurrying to the line. Right after the ball is snapped, I saw Julian Edelman scrambling out and realized no one had him so I had better pick him up.
Once he had the ball, there was a ton of grass between us but in my mind I had the speed to prevent him from going for six. As I closed in around the seven yard line, I realized that if I dove I could probably knock him out of bounds and down him at the one or two.
Once I dove, I didn’t even realize Edelman had also dove—I just closed my eyes and my head hit the ground. I instantly felt a sharp pain and the first thought in my mind was ‘Alright, let’s go. Time bounce back and get ready for the next play.’ That is when I realized I couldn’t feel the left side of my body.
It took hours in a hospital bed for sensation to return to his body and for doctors to reassure him nothing life-threatening was going on. Williams even made a return for the Tennessee game in Week Five, but some of the numbness returned late in that contest.
His doctors told him that, depending on test results, his football career could be over.
Talk about numbness. When I heard the words that there was a real chance my career was over, my mind went blank. In that moment, I couldn’t come close to mentally processing the reality that was facing me.
While I waited for the results to come back, my mind slowly began to wrap around what I was facing. Suddenly I was being told that the livelihood I was depending on to provide for my family would just be taken away from me and there was nothing I could do about it. My parents had sacrificed so much for me during my career and I always envisioned being able to provide for them the rest of their lives—but out of nowhere that dream was in serious doubt.
So many of my dreams and goals, they were all on the line. What if my career was over and I hadn’t found a way to break through the playoff drought? The reality of it all hit me like a ton of bricks.
Williams’ career was not over, but he did need neck surgery and couldn’t move his neck for a full three weeks afterward. He came back home to Texas for most of the rehab process and "worked like crazy" to earn his way back onto the Bills’ roster.
When the offseason arrived it was time to do whatever necessary to get back on the field. As scary as the injury was, it granted the former second-round draft pick a new perspective on his life and football.
Throughout my entire career I had always heard people telling me that things can be taken away in an instant, but it really took me facing that distinct possibility to really comprehend everything that would mean.
Prior to all of this, I understood why we had to go to all the meetings and go to practice—but I won’t lie, I didn’t enjoy it. I was there for Sundays. Now? I enjoy every second of the daily routine. Whether it is a meeting, practice, walk-through or helping bring along the rookies, I truly enjoy all of it. I can’t say that for some of my past years.
It is a little bit tough for me to admit all that because looking back I have to wonder what kind of player I could have been early in my career had I prepared the way I do now rather than just relying on my natural raw athleticism.
From here on out, Williams says there will be no one with an edge on him in preparation. If he gets beat, it won’t be because he hadn’t done everything possible to prepare.
With the 2016 season now upon us, Williams is back, and he plans to put his team back at the top.