The Fly Route
There was nothing like waking up to the news that Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams had been murdered to make a brewing Bronco fan completely and utterly forget the playoffs.
I know murders and shootings happen every day and that while events like this are rare among professional sports stars and celebrities, they do happen. Still, I was surprised the effect Williams' killing had on me.
The 24-year old Oklahoma State product was shot early New Year's morning in a drive-by shooting in a Hummer limousine he and friends were sharing.
Nothing like this had ever happened to my team or to a player I was familiar with. I won't pretend I knew Williams or preach on about how he was a wonderful young man on and off the field.
From all I've read, though, he was all of that after overcoming some rough teenage years. I'll just say I'll miss him where I knew him -- on the field -- and that his death has hung over me where I didn't expect it to -- off the field.
Williams drew a disproportionate percentage of my cursing during many games over his two-year career, but oddly enough I sat down and thought about his role during Denver's final game of this season -- a debate with some friends about Williams' worth just hours before his life would end.
As a fan, it was both easy and hard to like him. He always gave good interviews and seemed like a happy, good guy whenever on camera. He also had a crazy Mohawk earlier this season that was so goofy it was hard not to like.
But he was often picked on by opposing quarterbacks and got lit up pretty bad in several games this season. It was always frustrating to watch receivers continually make catches in front of Williams as the opposing offense marched down the field.
To say he got torched isn't fair, however. For the most part, quarterbacks threw at him because it was a far better option than throwing at Denver's other corner, Champ Bailey. Williams also rarely actually got burnt. He'd have a lot of passes completed against him, but he usually wasn't really out of position and they weren't long completions. He was often just the victim of an opposing opponent's entire offensive focus.
Were it not for Bailey playing opposite him, he'd have been recognized as one of the league's top young corners. He likely would have earned that status with a few more years of work anyway.
The news hung with me all day, and that surprised me. Like I said, I never met the guy and only saw him play in person once, and that was before he was a Bronco. It was just so sudden, so unexpected and so sad.
I don't know the circumstances that preceded the shooting, whether there was a fight in a bar or it was random, whether the gunman was targeting Williams or one of the other people in the limo. What I do know is that the guy was my exact age, 24, and he was out with friends on New Year's Eve, just like I was.
I'm sure those who knew Williams will miss him a great deal. I will too, even if the only place I knew him was on the field.