Special to the Sun/Richard Brian
Monday, Aug. 13, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Charles Williams remembers exactly when his 2017 season ended.
It was supposed to be a breakout sophomore campaign for the 5-foot-9 running back, but Williams managed just 12 carries in the season opener against Howard before an ankle injury sidelined him for the remainder of the year.
“I came down on my foot and [the ligament] snapped inside,” Williams said. “It was throbbing at first and then it got stiff. I came off the field and was like, ‘Tape it up.’ I played all the way into the third quarter on my bad ankle, and then later they told me it was a torn ligament.”
With that, his season was over. Instead of building off his 2016 effort, which saw Williams set a UNLV freshman record with 763 rushing yards, he had to sit and watch as the Rebels came up just short of bowl eligibility.
Almost one full year later, Williams is back at 100 percent, and he proved it with a strong performance in the Rebels’ first intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday. Williams ran hard and didn’t hesitate or shy away from contact, clearing a mental hurdle that can hinder some players returning from serious injury.
Williams admitted to some nerves before the practice session.
“I was kind of nervous at first,” he said. “But I came through and got my first couple hits in, and it felt good to be back. And then once the game started flowing, I started attacking.”
Williams was held out of full-contact sessions during the spring, but he has been a full participant in training camp so far. His reintroduction to live football on Saturday was more about the mental aspect than the actual ankle ligament, and that’s why head coach Tony Sanchez couldn’t have been happier to see Wililams flash his full skill set against defenders determined to tackle him.
“We were reeling him in in terms of what we did with him in the spring, so this was the first time he’s had real live contact [since the injury],” Sanchez said. “And you always worry about a guy coming back timid. You can’t blame them — sometimes you come off an injury and in the back of your mind you’re thinking about it. The thing I loved is, he ran really aggressive [on Saturday]. He was jamming it up there in the hole when we ran some of those powers in short yardage situations. You saw him in the goal line situations, nothing timid about him at all. And he had one big run, he barely stepped out of bounds or it would have been about a 70-yard run. It was good to see him explosive and good to see him drop the pads and play like his old self.”
Williams was granted a medical redshirt for 2017, so he is still a sophomore in terms of eligibility.
Williams said he can’t wait for the season to start, and that he doesn’t want to think about his ankle at all.
“I can’t baby it anymore,” Williams said. “We’re in the season now. It’s time to go. I can’t worry about that anymore because I’m 100 percent.”