For the Seahawks' Jesse Williams, Friday night's exhibition against the Denver Broncos was much more than a football game.
It signified the culmination of an incredible comeback for the third-year defensive tackle, who three months ago was hospitalized after discovering blood in his urine.
Williams was diagnosed with Papillary Type 2 cancer and had a kidney removed shortly thereafter. In June, after successful surgery, Williams was cleared for light workouts and when training camp opened in late July, he wasn't yet cleared for contact but worked out on his own on the side of practice. Last week, Williams put on the pads at camp and was given the go-ahead for game action.
"I felt like crying running out of the tunnel," Williams said following the Seahawks' preseason opener, a 22-20 defeat. "A lot of downs the last couple of months, but to be out there running around with my team, make some plays, have fun, and just do what I'm supposed to be doing, back to my normal life. It means a lot to me."
Williams recorded two tackles against the Broncos in what was his first NFL action since his rookie year, when he saw time in two preseason games. A fifth-round pick of the Seahawks in 2013 out of the University of Alabama, Williams suffered an ACL injury that sent him to injured reserve before the start of the regular season and he missed his initial year in the League as a result. A second knee injury during last summer's training camp forced him to sit out a second consecutive season, making Friday night's return to the field even sweeter.
"I was just trying to go out there and make the most of the opportunities," Williams said. "If it was one play, three plays, 100, I was just going to go out there and give it all I had while I was on the field and I felt like I did that.
"It was good to work with the young guys, move around, just hit someone," he added. "Feel like I play football again instead of being that injured guy on sideline."
While Williams has recovered from the kidney surgery, he awaits further testing to determine the extent of his diagnosis, having admitted it's too soon to call himself cancer-free. But right now, he's not letting that stop him from pursuing the life that he loves.
"Hopefully, just to continue staying healthy, working out, and being a part of the team," Williams said. "And go through the preseason and hopefully be able to contribute as best I can and just keep having fun and take it day by day."