Just a few seasons ago, Damien Williams wondered if his NFL career was over.
He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Miami Dolphins in 2014. He served mainly in special teams until he was named the starter in the 2017 season.
His season was cut short, though, when he suffered a dislocated shoulder in week 12 that sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Williams was a free agent that summer, and he gained weight because he couldn't work out while nursing his shoulder injury.
"I'm a physical player. I like to be physical, so how am I gonna approach the game now?" Williams remembers asking himself. "... That was probably my hardest moment [in the NFL]."
Williams went on to sing with in Kansas City, where he played the best football of his career. He led the Chiefs to a Super Bowl win in 2019, rushing for 104 yards and a touchdown on the ground, catching four passes for 29 yards, and a receiving touchdown.
Williams sat out the 2020 season – as many players did – due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He wanted to be closer to his mother, who has cancer. He returned to the field in 2021 with the Chicago Bears, where he showed flashes of the talent that helped him lead the Chiefs to the Super Bowl.
And he's confident that his style, which he compares to a Looney Tunes character, will fit right into the Falcons' offense.
"I've always been, you know, that wild tasmanian devil," Williams told AtlantaFalcons.com while laughing. "I can make you miss. I can spin. I could run through you, and I could run past you. I can catch the ball up the field. I can run routes. I'm a football player. Whatever you want me to do. I could do that."
Those numbers will likely be higher next season because of quarterback Marcus Mariota's dual-threat ability. Williams has played with Patrick Mahomes, Ryan Tannehill, Justin Fields, and many others. Still, he says he's never played with a guy as dynamic running and throwing the football as Mariota is since he was in college.
And he thinks that Mariota potentially becoming a starter in the NFL for the first time since being benched in 2019 will fuel him in 2022.
"He's motivated. He wants to win," Williams, 28, said. "And there's something about those guys where you've been the starter [and] you had it taken away from you, so you know both sides. I feel like he's gonna come with a little different grind to him, a little more grit to him, and those kind of guys you want [that have] something to 'em. And I feel like he wanna prove the world something."
Williams has his own things to prove on the field, too, but for now, he just has one message for Atlanta.
"I'm a dirty bird!" Williams said with a smile. "It's time to go get your hands dirty."