TEMPE, AZ — “I’d be sitting here lying if I said I don’t miss it, I look at the grass here, and I look at this beautiful stadium and I miss it every day,” said Kyle Williams Tuesday at Sun Devil Stadium.
While he walked through the stadium tunnel, there was no shortage of memories for Williams to look back on. For the former wide receiver, football has been his life for as long as he can remember.
“Football was 18 years of my life, I mean I grew up on it every single day, I worked at it, I did pushups at night, I’m catching footballs off the jug machine,” said Williams.
His dedication landed him a scholarship at ASU and eventually an opportunity in the NFL. It’s the same dedication he’s now taking into his next journey.
“Coming to grips with that reality that you know, football may be done for me, and really trying to cultivate a passion outside of football was important,” said Williams, who was cut from the Tennessee Titans in 2020.
While at ASU, Kyle studied Bio-Medical Engineering. But it was a relationship he shared with ASU Team Physician Anikar Chhabra that now has him hoping to trade in his uniform for a white coat.
“I first saw Kyle as a freshman football player, he came to see me after a game where he had fallen onto his shoulder and hurt his AC joint,” said Dr. Chhabra.
The orthopedic surgeon says it didn’t take long to realize Kyle was different.
“Most kids just wanted to know when can I go back and play, Kyle thought a little deeper, he wanted to know the pathology of his injury, why did this happen, how can I prevent it,” said Dr. Chhabra.
The inquisitive young man would later become Dr. Chhabra's protege and is now a first-year med student at the Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine.
“I remember the first day I got back from shadowing him for a full day and I said mom, I want to be a surgeon, I want to be a doctor,” said Williams.
The 23-year-old is already drawing parallels from his days on the gridiron.
“You see a patient that comes in and they present this clinical vignette and you trying to figure out what’s going on, so you game plan right, you look at the labs, and you talk with your team,” said Williams.
While he has a long road ahead with med school, residency, and a potential fellowship, it’s a route this former wide receiver is thrilled to be taking.
“I’m excited to return to the sport at a different capacity, I may not be the one catching the balls but I may be able to help someone else return to catching balls, to catching touchdowns, and for me, that’s equally fulfilling,” said Williams.