September 1, 2012

Williams returns in Buckeyes' opener

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Throughout the preseason and days leading up to Ohio State's season opener against Miami (OH), the status of defensive end Nathan Williams was kept so far under wraps that even some of his teammates were shocked to see the fifth-year senior take the field for the Buckeyes on Saturday.

"I didn't even know he was going to play, to be honest. I just looked out there and I was like, 'Dang, Nate's out here,'" Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby said. "I was surprised, but I was actually happy at the same time."

After suffering a season-ending knee injury OSU's opener a year ago, Williams rejoined the Buckeyes' defense out on the field during their second series against the RedHawks on Saturday. He looked anything like a player less than a year removed from microfracture knee surgery as he played through the duration of the first half and for a few series' in the second.

"My hearts beating right now. It hasn't stopped since I started today," Williams said after the game. "It's great to get something that's been taken away from you. The countless hours of rehabbing and trying to get back with these guys, it means a lot."

The Miami Trace product registered two tackles against the RedHawks, which are two more than the OSU coaching staff may have thought they could count on a month ago as Williams continued to rehabilitate his knee throughout the Buckeyes' fall camp. It wasn't until the Monday before OSU's season opener that Williams was cleared to play, although how much he would get to play remained in doubt.

In days leading up his debut as the Buckeyes' head coach, Urban Meyer insisted that Williams would only be used on a limited basis, and also found himself surprised to see No. 43 on the field as often as he was during the team's 56-10 win over Miami.

"Played more snaps than I thought he would," Meyer said. "Must have made him feel good, big smile on his face, knocked the rust off of him. Hasn't practiced a whole lot."

But while clearly excited to have one of the players that he's raved about throughout his short OSU tenure, Meyer reserved the right to evaluate Williams' judgment until after he's reviewed game film.

"I'll let you know how he played on next week's press conference," Meyer said with a smile.

Regardless of how he played, Williams was just happy to be back out on the field, especially considering that the chances of him doing so have been far from certain over the past year.

"It's like a dream come true all over again for me," Williams said. "Getting another chance to be in this stadium and play for you guys. I wake up every morning looking forward to go to work just to make you guys happy. I'm not going to take it for granted."

Admittedly tired from his return to the field, Williams insisted that he felt great physically following the Buckeyes' win and a pregame workout with OSU co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell and defensive line coach Mike Vrabel instilled enough confidence in him to give it a go on Saturday.

"I felt great, man. I felt great," Williams said. "Warmups felt awesome. I had to go out and do an individual workout with Coach Vrabel and Coach Fickell and everything went well. So my body's alright, I just have to take care of it this weekend.

Given what he's been through in the last year and the uncertainty that his injury presented, Williams made sure to savor the feeling of rushing on to the field with his teammates on Saturday. And he's well aware that it's something he may only get to do 11 more times.

"It's an unparalleled feeling that I'm feeling right now," Williams said. "It was a tremendous feeling to have and hopefully I can enjoy it 11 more times this year."


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