Exactly 287 days after sustaining a torn ACL, Kyle Williams will be starting at wide receiver in the 49ers regular season opener against the Green Bay Packers.
To say Williams has come a long way since he was injured against the New Orleans Saints would be an understatement.
At the end of last season, Williams told 49ers.com, "This is going to be a rehab like no one has ever seen before."
Throughout the offseason, Williams worked on the sideline and in the weight room alongside running back Kendall Hunter, who tore his Achilles tendon in the same game in which Williams sustained his injury.
"You hear a lot of guys come back from injures that are serious and season-ending, and they say they are different or they didn't feel right until this many months," Williams said. "We wanted to feel right going in to day one. We built off each other with how we worked. It was a competition."
Not only did Williams push himself to overcome the setback, he used it as fuel. Getting back to normal wasn't good enough. He wanted to get better.
Being able to work next to his teammates is what he missed the most.
"Just to be able to go out to practice, to be able to run all the routes and actually get tired running, it's something you didn't miss before, but when you're sitting there watching and you can't do anything, you start to cherish that type of stuff," Williams said. "You cherish the work, you appreciate the work. That's something that I've loved so far getting back into it - getting winded out there with my guys, being dog-tired and doing it with them. It's work and you appreciate it."
On a team loaded with hard-working individuals, Williams is among San Francisco's elite. The fourth-year receiver has always been highly motivated, but he rattled off the names of teammates who've helped set the tone – linebacker Joe Staley, defensive tackle Justin Smith and quarterback Colin Kaepernick to name a few.
"Over time, I've become one of those guys who other guys look to to get with the program because that's the standard around here," Williams said. "That's the way we work, and that's the way we go about our business and that's not going to change for a long time. That's something that you have to do individually, that's something you have to do as a team and you'll continue to have success."
Going into Week 1, Williams is listed as the No. 2 wide receiver on the 49ers depth chart, a starter opposite of veteran offseason addition Anquan Boldin.
"That means that the body of work that I've put in and the work I've done in the classroom, shows them that I'm ready at this point to take that and to run with it," Williams said about getting the starting nod. "To be in there with the guys that we have across that offense and to be mentioned as one of the starters is big. I fully accept that responsibility and look to do things with it."
After all the work and rehabilitation he has gone through to get to this point, Williams appreciates the opportunity even more, but he still isn't satisfied.
"I can tell you this much, I'm not going to let that slip away at all," Williams said. "There's no doubt in my mind, no chance that I'm letting it slip away. I'm going to take full advantage of it."