It wasn't too long ago that Darrel Williams – a four-star recruit out of high school – amassed more than 1,600 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns over four years at one of the biggest football powerhouses in the nation.
He was the first player in LSU's storied history to ever record at least 100 yards on both the ground and through the air in a single game, and his efforts as a senior earned team MVP honors alongside eventual first-round pick Devin White.
The man impressed each and every time he was given an opportunity, which is why it was so surprising when the 2018 NFL Draft came and went without Williams' name being called.
"I remember the look in my parents' eyes and watching my mom cry. I had never seen her cry before," Williams said. "I took that to heart."
It didn't take long for Williams to find a home, as he signed with the Chiefs following the draft and has been around ever since. He's seen action in 39 games during his four years in Kansas City – tallying 808 total yards and eight touchdowns in that time while chipping in some big plays along the way – but one milestone has remained elusive.
Williams has yet to start a game in the NFL, but with fellow tailback Clyde Edwards-Helaire now on injured reserve, he's in line to be the lead back on Sunday against Washington. It's an opportunity that he's patiently awaited throughout his career as a professional, and after showing flashes of what he could do over the years, Williams finally has his chance.
"He's more than ready. This is the opportunity that he's been waiting for," said Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy. "He will maximize it and go and do the things that we know he can do."
Williams has made some significant plays over the years in limited chances, including a 16-yard grab that moved the chains on third down to beat Baltimore in 2019 and a two-touchdown performance against Detroit later that season. He rushed for 144 yards on 31 carries during last season's playoff run, including a career-high 78 yards in the Divisional Round against Cleveland.
His abilities were on also display as recently as two weeks ago, when he rushed for 42 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries in the Chiefs' victory over Philadelphia. That solid performance was the result of a routine that won't change heading into Sunday's game despite the likelihood of an enhanced role.
"The preparation [doesn't] change at all. [Running Backs' Coach] Greg Lewis coaches all the running backs [like we're the starter] because we never know when [we will be], just like now," Williams said. "He prepares everyone to be a starter – even if you're on the practice squad – because you never know what can happen. Anything can happen, it's football."
Anything certainly can happen, which is why Williams wasn't discouraged four years ago when he went unclaimed in the draft. He knew what he could achieve when given a chance, and as his mom wiped away tears, Williams' revolve only strengthened.
"I've always wanted to play in the league, but that was an extra push to help me get to where I wanted to go," Williams said. "Now, I get this opportunity and I have to make the most of it for her."