Before each game and every time he scores a touchdown, Ryan’s Tyrone Williams offers a prayer for his deceased father.
Sometimes he’ll ask the team to pray for his father, Darnell Williams Sr., hoping he watches over his son when he puts on his pads and helmet.
With Ryan trailing by five points in the fourth quarter to Corsicana in the first game of the season, Williams assumed his spot a few feet behind his quarterback, ready to rumble for a few yards and a first down.
Instead he broke through a gaping hole created by the offensive line and scored his first varsity touchdown, putting Ryan ahead for good. Then he thanked the man who showed him the game, the man who’s no longer with him.
“Thank you for being with me, and I hope you do it again,” Williams said.
Last week against Wichita Falls Rider, Williams had 21 carries for 196 yards and a touchdown. Tonight at 7:30 against Wylie East, Williams will take the role as the team’s primary running back for the second straight game.
“Right now we just feel like he helps our football team,” Ryan head coach Joey Florence said. “I think he’s too talented. He can be a real special running back if we play him enough.”
Florence had Williams playing linebacker to start the season, with the junior occasionally coming in for Ryan’s short-yardage “Bulls” formation. Florence said that with the exception of the quarterback position, he puts all of his best athletes on the defensive side of the football.
But after his go-ahead touchdown against Corsicana, Florence saw that Williams could boost Ryan’s offense. Against Rider, and with junior quarterback Preston Compton making his first start for the injured Mitchell Bridges, Williams flourished.
Williams is averaging 125 rushing yards per game and has scored three rushing touchdowns. When Florence asked Williams to switch to the offense, there was no hesitation in his response.
“That’s what I loved about Tyrone,” Florence said. “He said, ‘Coach, put me wherever you need me. I’ll play wherever you want me to play.’ That’s why I enjoy coaching these kids. They’re really trying and they’re really playing as a team, putting the team first, no resistance at all.”
Father and son
In his new position, Williams will carry the ball cradled in his right arm, next to a tattoo that says “FATHERS” on his right triceps, with “KEEPER” on his left triceps.
He got the tattoos about five months ago. Already tired when he walked into the tattoo shop, he fell asleep during the process.
Williams got the artwork done to honor his father, who died of lung cancer in June 2011 at age 65, one day after his wife’s birthday.
Tyrone Williams originally went by Darnell, but when he was younger, both father and son looked whenever their name was called. So the son opted to go by his middle name, Tyrone.
Darnell Williams Sr. was 50 when his son was born, around the same time he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Tyrone was the only biological son he had with his wife, Vanessa. Darnell Williams Sr. helped raise the eight children from Vanessa’s previous marriage.
Tyrone didn’t find out about his father’s illness until he was 7. One day after the two were playing video games, Williams Sr. had trouble breathing.
“I really didn’t know what it was at the time,” Williams said. “I just thought it would go away, and then growing up I figured it wouldn’t.”
Then last summer, Williams Sr. went to the hospital for a few days. While visiting his father that June 28, Tyrone got hungry and took a trip to the vending machine. Almost as soon as he re-entered the room filled with family members, his father’s heart monitor made the monotone sound nobody wants to hear.
“I walked in on it, and then I just busted out in my tears,” Williams said.
Williams stands at 6-1, weighs 190 pounds and is almost always smiling. When he agrees with what someone is asking him, he answers with an affirming “Yes, sir.” On Wednesday he had the ID card of his homecoming date draped around his neck because she hasn’t asked for it back yet.
Compton, Williams’ new partner in Ryan’s backfield, said he enjoys hanging out with the Raiders’ newly minted running back, who stepped in with a huge performance last week and is looking for the same level of output today.
“He’s fast,” Compton said. “Once he gets in open field, I feel like no one can catch him. Watching him on film after this week, it seems like he just runs over kids.”
When he got to his locker Thursday, there were letters from Oklahoma and Colorado State near the bottom. He looked at them briefly before tucking them onto the top shelf, atop a Converse shoe box.
“He was helping our defense out a lot,” Ryan defensive lineman J.T. Williams said. “He’s doing his thing on offense, running and getting touchdowns. It was kind of fun having him on defense for a while.”
Williams is now where his team needs him: in the backfield, helping carry the offensive burden. And the next time he scores, he’ll look upward once again to give thanks.
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