Running back Kerwynn Williams did not have a carry in the NFL before the 19 he got Sunday with the Cardinals.
Before he ever got to the Cardinals – and before Tony Jefferson could officially call him a teammate – Kerwynn Williams would visit the beachfront house rented by Jefferson and Kenny Stills.
All three were working out in San Diego at EXOS (formerly Athletes Performance). Jefferson and Stills had NFL spots after successful rookie seasons with the Cardinals and Saints, respectively. Williams had spent much of his 2013 rookie season on the Chargers' practice squad, hoping he'd have a place.
He would not.
But at the time, he worked, and after workouts were over, Williams would join a handful of players at the beachhouse, ready to take
each other on in the video game NBA 2K14. Jefferson, never shy in his support of the Phoenix Suns, always played as the Suns. Williams, from Nevada, played as the Warriors most of the time.
"I'm a Lakers fan, but on the game, they are terrible," Williams said, shaking his head.
More memorable, as Williams thinks back, was the idea he and Jefferson went from video hoop combatants to football teammates. Or that Williams would eventually provide the Cardinals with their first 100-yard rushing game of the 2014 season for a team leading the NFC with a 10-3 record.
"You're on a journey," Williams said. "You can't control what happens. You can only control how you go about working every day."
It's certainly been a journey for Williams, who came out of Utah State in the 2013 draft and was a seventh-round draft pick of Indianapolis. Bruce Arians was already gone from the Colts by then. Williams got a spot on the Colts' roster at the end of the preseason for a minute, but he was cut before the first regular-season game and then signed to the Colts' practice squad.
It began a string of 15 different roster moves between the Colts, Chargers and Cardinals in the 21 months from the time he was drafted in 2013 to last Friday, when he was promoted from the Cards' practice squad before the Chiefs game.
To this, Williams just shrugs. He doesn't want to take much credit for his first performance. Arians said Stepfan Taylor will remain the
starting running back and that the Cards will continue to use the hot hand in their running-back-by-committee, so there's no guarantee Williams will get another 19 carries in a game either. This doesn't bother Williams.
"I just feel like my whole life is a process," Williams said. "Nothing has ever happened exactly how I wanted it to. That's just how you've got to take it. Take every experience and grow from it
"It's just what my parents instilled in me. Everything is not going to be your way. I kind of took that and grew with that."
That he ended up a Cardinal also took a certain turn of events. The Cardinals liked the practice squad back they had early in the year, Dominique Williams, but he got hurt in a practice collision with cornerback Patrick Peterson, and eventually the Cards had to let him go. The team signed Chris Rainey to the practice squad, but cut him at the same time they shelved running back Jonathan Dwyer for his domestic violence arrest.
The team signed Marion Grice – one of the players that beat out Williams for a spot with the Chargers this preseason – to replace Dwyer. But they added Williams to replace Rainey. Other than knowing Jefferson, Williams had no ties to the Cards or Arians. The pro personnel department, led by vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough and director of pro scouting Quentin Harris, simply had him at the top of the team's "ready list."
Williams was briefly on the active roster at one point, but only played two snaps on special teams against the Rams.
"We looked at him a couple of times this year," Arians said. "He's the closest thing we had to Andre (Ellington). If Andre would have went down, then we would've turned to him sooner."
Ellington did finally go down, to season-ending hernia surgery, which is why Williams was promoted from the practice squad last Friday. Many were surprised when the Cards cut Michael Bush in that situation, but Williams had looked so good in practice on the scout team, it wasn't a surprise to his teammates.
"He had been making our defense look like fools," linebacker Sam Acho said.
Rams coach Jeff Fisher said watching Williams on video "he reminds me a little of Maurice Jones-Drew" in the way Williams moves and can break tackles. No one is going to coronate the 5-foot-8, 198-pound Williams as the second coming of MJD, but it does go to show what can happen if the guy gets the right chance in the right place.
"My scouting knowledge, well, I knew he was a good player," Jefferson said with a smile. "Just training with him, you could see the athleticism, the change in direction. But when he got here, it was the practice squad, so I didn't really know how it would work."
In a year of next man up, it almost seems like fate. Kind of like getting to know Jefferson in the first place, while trading barbs about the video games they played.
"I played (Jefferson) the other day for old times' sake," Williams said. "There was one day in particular in San Diego where he beat me pretty good (in 2K14), like three times in a row. He brought that up the other day.
"I had to '20-piece' him. There are other people in the house when you're playing and if you get beat by 20, you got to pass the sticks over. He had to pass the sticks. He was pretty hot about that, but I had to get him."
Frame-by-frame breakdown of Michael Floyd's 45-yd catch against the Chiefs.