Chiefs running back Darrel Williams turned mom's tears into hollers of happiness

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Karen Williams cried when her son, Kansas City Chiefs running back Darrel Williams, failed to be selected in any of the seven rounds of the 2018 NFL draft. She thought he would never get a shot to play football at its highest level.

She was filled with emotion of a different kind on Sunday at home in Louisiana while watching Williams play for the Chiefs. Williams scored two touchdowns and led his team with 62 rushing yards in a 31-13 victory in Washington.

"I was screaming and hollering so loud I didn't think I'd have a voice when the game was over," Karen Williams said.

Forgive Karen for momentarily thinking an NFL career might not be in store for her son. He has a history of being overlooked.

He was a prolific runner in high school, achieving so much that he received and accepted a scholarship offer to LSU. But once in Baton Rouge, he played little as a backup behind running backs Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice.

When he went undrafted, Williams didn't turn it into a setback. Instead, he signed with the Chiefs, who at the time had the league's leading rusher from the previous season in Kareem Hunt.

Since then there hasn't been a lot of playing time for Williams in Kansas City. He had his moments, like when he scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter -- including the game winner in the final seconds -- of a 2019 game against the Detroit Lions or when he led the Chiefs with 78 rushing yards during last season's divisional round win over the Cleveland Browns.

But with starting running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire on injured reserve -- at least a three-game window -- Williams has a chance to stake his claim to a more consistent role over the long term.

"This is my first time really starting in the league for real," Williams said. "Just the opportunity, I've got to make the most of it. It's something big for my mom and my dad. I didn't get drafted. The look in my parents' eyes, watching my mom cry, that meant something special to me. I had never seen my mom cry. Just having that moment, not getting drafted. ... I kind of took that to heart. Now I get this opportunity and I've got to make the most of it, just for her."

Karen Williams said her son has long had the goal of being a football star, which hardly makes him unusual among NFL players. But few went to the lengths Williams did at a young age to make it happen.

She recalled Darrel being in middle and high school and running up and down their street in Louisiana dragging a chute behind him as a conditioning exercise.

"On our block, everybody saw it," Karen Williams said. "The whole neighborhood knew it when Darrel Williams was working out.

"That's why I was so emotional when he wasn't drafted. This is what he had worked his whole life for. He worked so hard and then it didn't work out like that and so emotionally I was broken, in pieces. But he just looked at me and told me not to worry and said everything would work out. It has."

At 224 pounds, Williams is by far the biggest of any of the Chiefs' backs, including the 205-pound Edwards-Helaire. The Chiefs like him for his size and versatility. They are as comfortable with him on passing downs as they are in regular down-and-distance situations, red zone, third downs and short-yardage.

That's why Williams, when asked his expectations for himself during Edwards-Helaire's absence, said, "Just continue to be myself, be consistent. ... I feel I can do anything: short yardage, catching out of the backfield, whatever. I'm an all-around back."

The Chiefs seem to agree. They've acquired many other backs since signing Williams. The list includes Damien Williams, LeSean McCoy, Le'Veon Bell and Edwards-Helaire.

Williams has outlasted all of them except Edwards-Helaire.

"Darrel has been doing this for a number of years," offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said. "He's done a lot of great things. Obviously he hasn't had the opportunity to play as much as everybody would want him to play but there's a reason why he's here.

"He's more than ready. This is the opportunity that he's been waiting for."