Carolina Panthers rookie offensive tackle Daryl Williams, left, plays in a preseason game against Buffalo on August 14, 2016, in Orchard Park, N.Y. Williams, a former Lake Dallas Falcon, and the Panthers will face Denver in Super Bowl L on February 7, 2016. Photo: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images
Daryl Williams remembers sitting down around this time last year with his then-fiance, agent and a few friends to watch the Patriots and Seahawks in the Super Bowl. At the time, Williams was just another NFL hopeful, with the draft several months away.
When the Super Bowl captures the nationâ€™s attention again on Sunday, February 7, 2016, Williams will be far from anyoneâ€™s couch.
The Lake Dallas product and former Oklahoma offensive tackle will suit up for the Carolina Panthers when they face the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl L at Leviâ€™s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Win or lose, the game will cap a whirlwind year for the fourth-round draft pick.
â€œGod has definitely blessed me and my other rookie teammates,â€ Williams said. â€œI remember watching the Patriots and not once did I have in my mind that, hey, next year Iâ€™m going to be playing in the Super Bowl.
â€œIâ€™ve had a great rookie season so far.â€
Thatâ€™s putting it mildly. Williams played in 10 regular-season games with two starts. He also played in the Panthersâ€™ playoff games against Seattle and Arizona â€” both blowouts. Carolina is 17-1 and opened as a 3 1/2-point favorite for the Super Bowl.
Williams said he isnâ€™t overwhelmed by the gravity of the game. He spent the early part of this week securing tickets for his wife, Amber, and parents. In many ways, that was his first order of business.
This will be his parentsâ€™ first chance to see him play in person in the NFL.
â€œI just think itâ€™s cool that their first game to see me play live is the Super Bowl,â€ Williams said with a laugh. â€œThere are no butterflies [in my stomach]. My wife watches me all the time, and I know my parents watch on television. But it does fuel me to play better. Itâ€™s exciting.â€
His mother, Lamesa Williams-Hindman, said she and husband Jason Hindman will leave early February 5 and that Amber is rounding up Panthers gear that they can wear to the game.
â€œIâ€™m always excited about being able to watch him play,â€ Williams-Hindman said. â€œIâ€™ve been so busy that I havenâ€™t been able to go to the games [in person], but hopefully that will change soon.
â€œIâ€™m honored to be part of this. To see it come to pass, Iâ€™m just going to sit back and smile.â€
Lake Dallas coach Michael Young, who coached Williams and has him listed in his cellphone contacts as â€œBig Nasty,â€ said Williams has a chance to be a star in the league. Young said that no matter how big the moments have become over the years, Williams has remained the same caring, humble and soft-spoken guy who is only concerned with holding true to his family and roots.
Young was there last summer when Williams married Amber, his high school sweetheart.
â€œIt was great having the chance to go to his wedding,â€ Young said. â€œThis isnâ€™t a big town. His mom still lives around here and heâ€™s got a sister who still goes to school at Lake Dallas. Heâ€™s always been a quiet guy, and heâ€™s one of the last people who would ever spend his [NFL] money unnecessarily. Heâ€™s always been good with his money â€” that boy throws quarters around like they are manhole covers.â€
Williams was a highly coveted recruit coming out of high school. He started 37 games in four seasons with the Sooners and was a first-team All-Big 12 selection as a senior. Prior to that, he was one of the top offensive tackles in the state at Lake Dallas by the time he wrapped up his final season in 2009.
Williams became the highest tackle selected by the Panthers since the team took Jett Otah 19th overall in 2008.
â€œThese NFL teams, they donâ€™t just keep extra guys around. They need him,â€ Young said. â€œI wouldnâ€™t be surprised if heâ€™s competing for a starting spot next year.
â€œThis is a big deal for Daryl and weâ€™re all happy for him. To win a Super Bowl ring is a huge opportunity. There are [Pro Football] Hall of Fame players who never got a chance to do that.â€
Williams said heâ€™s taking it all in stride â€” just like he has with everything throughout his life.
â€œIâ€™m definitely [on Cloud 9], but itâ€™s already sunk in,â€ Williams said of earning a spot in the Super Bowl. â€œNow our job is to refocus. We still have to go out and win it.â€
Article by Steve Gamel. Originally published on the Denton Record-Chronicle.