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Nebraska vs. Fresno State, 9.13.14

Nebraska defensive tackle Kevin Williams (92) and cornerback Josh Mitchell (5) stop Fresno State running back Marteze Waller (33) in the second quarter of Saturday's game in Fresno, Calif. Williams has been hampered by injuries throughout his Husker career.

Kevin Williams has to sift deep into his memory to recall the last time he played a game while healthy.

Before Saturday's rout of Fresno State, when he had three tackles (two for loss), it likely was one of the five games he played in during the 2012 season — although there's a good chance he was banged up then, too.

Williams tore an ACL and redshirted in 2011, then spent all of last season on the sideline after tearing the ACL again in fall camp and undergoing surgery before the season started. He was projected to be one of Nebraska's starting defensive tackles before last year's injury. 

But finally, the 6-foot-2, 275-pound junior said he felt back to full strength during his 20 or so snaps as a backup in Saturday's game. 

"The first play I was out there Saturday, it started to feel a little more like high school," said the Holland, Ohio, native. "Where it was just, you know, starting to get back into a rhythm. That's something I haven't been able to do yet. I haven't been able to get into a rhythm yet because I've been injured, unfortunately, pretty much the whole time I've been here."

But Williams says he more than made up for what he hasn't been able to do physically by expanding his knowledge of Nebraska's defensive philosophy and the technical aspect of the game.

"I definitely think I'm better assignment-wise and technique-wise," he said. "When you get hurt, yeah, you take a step back physically for the moment while building yourself back up. But you also see things from a different perspective. You see why they want you to do things a certain way. You see why it's hurting us when guys don't do it a certain way. Just seeing it from that different perspective really helped me."

He admitted that he got down on himself after the second knee injury, but credits his mom for some timely encouragement. She pointed to a group of defensive lineman in the NFL who have gone through similar injuries and made it though.

"I came way too far and worked way too hard to let any type of doubt like that creep into my head," Williams said. 

Still, Williams didn't walk away from Saturday's game unscathed — he sported a walking boot on his right foot Monday to help protect what he called a minor bone bruise. 

No worries, though. There might not be a player on the Husker team who knows more about coming back from injuries.

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