Interior line play is hardly the first thing most football fans look for when watching a game. But please, do yourself a favor and pay attention to No. 90 when he is on the field with the Seahawks defense in Friday's night's preseason opener.
Because if you miss seeing Jesse Williams on the field at defensive tackle, you're missing the best story of Seattle's preseason.
Only three months ago, Williams was taken to the hospital after urinating blood and later diagnosed with Papillary Type 2 cancer. Not long after that, he had a kidney removed. Now on Friday, Williams will play against the Denver Broncos when the Seahawks host their first preseason game of 2015.
"Jesse's going," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "We are going to play Jesse. Can you imagine that? What a story. What a story. He has never, never hinted that he wouldn't make it back and get ready; he's practiced well. He'll play—we'll control the number of snaps that he plays—but he's going to be out there battling. I think it's a great tribute to the kid. He's a real competitor."
What a story, indeed. Williams was cleared for light workouts in June, and at the time didn't know if he would be able to play this season. By the time camp started, he was working out on the side while his teammates practiced, but not yet cleared for contact. Then a week ago, Williams returned to practice, another big step in a remarkable comeback, and now he's ready for game action.
"It's huge," Williams said. "It means a lot to me. I'm looking forward to getting out there and putting everything behind me."
Even without the latest and most serious setback in his career, Williams would be eager for a taste of an NFL game. Williams, a fifth-round pick out of Alabama in 2013, played in two preseason games as a rookie, then landed on injured reserve with a knee injury. He missed all of last season, preseason included, with a second knee injury that caused him to be placed on IR.
"It'll feel good to be out there healthy and moving around, just being a part of the team like I should have these past couple of years," Williams said. "It's been a long journey so far, but I'm looking forward to actually getting out there and being able to run around and hit people a little bit."
As incredible as Williams' comeback has been, his future on and off the field remains unclear. He is physically recovered from his surgery and therefore clear to play, but he has more test coming to determine if further treatment is needed. The news has been encouraging thus far, but it's too soon for Williams to use terms like cancer-free or remission. Yet despite the uncertainty, he pushes forward trying to continue his NFL career.
"I just block all that out," he said. "Everything else, I can't control that. I just do what I can, wake up, come to work and try to put myself in better shoes for the next day. It's tough, and I think my family struggles with it more, but for me, just being out there right now is more than enough."
Preseason games don't count in the standings, and few remember the final score, but for Williams, taking the field Friday night, less than three months from having a cancerous kidney removed, will be an emotional moment.
"It's crazy," he said. "I don't really think about it too much, but three months ago, there were a lot of questions about my health, would I ever play? To be past all that and be able to be out there and be a part of it is huge. It's a quick turnaround. Hopefully I can get out there and make some plays, and then continue to do it for the rest of the year."