Kasen Williams wants to show 'I'm still here'
Kasen Williams’ life has revolved around football for as long as he can remember.
In high school, he was a three-time state champion at Skyline (Sammamish). He was the Parade All-America Player of the Year as a senior. He had a list of accolades that made him one of the most decorated prep athletes to come out of Washington.
And, after a storied prep career, he stayed to play college football for the hometown Huskies, following in the footsteps of his father, Aaron. Williams’ story was playing out the way he scripted it growing up.
Then there was a twist in the tale.
Williams suffered an injury as a junior that impacted his senior season. He went undrafted and spent four years on NFL practice squads.
He found himself in a difficult position. He knew he still had more to give to the game, but he needed an opportunity.
Enter the XFL.
“This opportunity is extremely important to me because, me being in the league for four years and not making a team coming out of camp, always being put on practice squads, for me, this league and this opportunity was about me getting a year of tape, showing the consistency in my play and letting people know I’m still here,” he said.
When the XFL kicks off in February, Williams will be 27. He believes his best football is still in front of him.
“I’m still fresh,” he said. “I’m still ready to play.”
As he weighed his options this year, he looked at playing in Canada, trying arena football or playing abroad. The XFL provided his best opportunity to jumpstart his football career.
“I’m itching and antsy,” he said. “I’m watching these games, these college games, these NFL games and I’m like, ‘I miss it. I want to be a part of it.’
“I know I’m not done.”
Williams is one of the rare athletes who has been able to play much of his career where he grew up. From high school to college and a few years with the Seahawks, Williams’ only out-of-state stops were stints with Cleveland and Indianapolis. So, when he looks at ideal situations with XFL franchises, the Dragons are high on his list.
“Hopefully I get to stay in the area,” he said. “It would be extremely nice, playing at CenturyLink. Just being in Washington and playing here my whole life, that’s something not a lot of people get the opportunity to do, so this opportunity may provide that again for me.”
But, regardless of which team selects him in the draft, his plan is to prove he can still play at an elite level.
“There’s a big chip on my shoulder, because I feel like I do have a lot to prove,” he said. “(I had) a successful UW career, a successful high school career. Then when it was time to put it all together going into the NFL, it was a success as far as how I was playing, but I never got the opportunity to showcase that at a national level in the NFL. I have a big chip on my shoulder, because I know the ability is there.
“I know I can dominate a league, but it’s just a matter of going out and doing it. That’s what this opportunity is going to provide.”
While Williams’ professional football career hasn’t gone according to plan, he isn’t disappointed with the way his story has been written. In fact, he has used his recent football layoff to grow on and off the field.
“That’s why I’m grateful the timing of everything has happened the way it has,” he said. “It’s allowed me to take a year to really just focus on myself. I get to focus on who I am outside of the game, build my character and build a brand as someone who is giving back, I’ve been working with kids a lot this summer.”
Armed with new perspective and a passion for the game that burns brighter than ever, Williams sees the XFL as the perfect opportunity at the right moment in his career.
“The XFL has a great foundation and it seems like it’s going to be around for a while,” he said. “More opportunities. More football. People love football. They want to be around the game. You see the excitement around the Dragons, people are getting their season tickets, they’re buying merchandise. The excitement is there and you just want to be able to fulfill that excitement.”