TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- For a time, the monster looked human. Jesse Williams, Alabama's hulking nose guard, lay in a heap on the artificial turf, grasping at his knee. Anguish crossed his tattooed face. His sly grin vanished along with his superhuman persona.
The monster needed help off the field. He couldn't do it himself. A pair of trainers had to give the 6-foot-4, 320-pound giant a hand. Williams limped gingerly to the sidelines and waited to hear the bad news.
For a time, the monster hid under the covers. At the end of the bench with a towel over his head, Williams shut himself away from the doctors and trainers. The game disappeared.
"I thought everything was done for me," he said.
On the season's biggest stage, with a national championship berth on the line, Williams fell. His knee got rolled up at the line of scrimmage and it looked as if the No. 2-ranked Crimson Tide would have to face the Georgia Bulldogs without him.
But the self-proclaimed "Monstar" waited out the injury and tried again. Trainers wrapped his knee and attached a brace to it. Williams flexed and tried to apply pressure to it. It hurt, but pain is something he's more than familiar with. For 12 Saturdays this season, the brooding Aussie has been the one tasked with dishing it out.
"When I realized it wasn't as serious as I thought, I knew I could push through the pain," he explained. "I pushed with everything I had."
Williams paced the sidelines over and over and over, a trainer shadowing his every move. He wiggled his knee and tucked down into a three-point stance and pushed off. He took two swigs of Gatorade, grabbed his helmet and found his position coach on the edge of the field. He was going in, even if it was on one good knee or none at all.
UA defensive line coach Chris Rumph tried to put Williams' attitude into words: "That unbelievable toughness from Down Under."