TU redshirt junior safety Cristian Williams says he feels like a new man.
In 2018, he thought he might never put on football pads again.
The symptoms started in June.
"When I was coughing and sneezing, I had a little sting within my throat area," Williams said.
Fast forward to the regular season, when Williams reached a turning point where he needed help.
"I went to my cornerback coach's office to grab a Gatorade with my right hand. At that moment I didn't feel anything so I thought the Gatorade might be hot."
A teammate told him the Gatorade bottles were ice cold. They were.
"I went back and grabbed it with my left hand. And that's kind of when I freaked out."
Doctors told Williams he had an Arnold Chiari type 1 malformation, or a cyst on his spinal column. He could live a normal, everyday life. However, it would end his playing career.
"It was kind of hard the first week, it was a dark moment," Williams said. "I'm not going to sit here and act like I didn't have a little breakdown."
However...four weeks later, Williams found a glimmer of hope.
"Me and my mom got together, we found someone out in Dallas. Had a couple of MRIs out there. I went home and I prayed on it and prayed on it."
On February 15, Williams had surgery to remove the cyst and - hopefully - save his football career. At first during the recovery process, he couldn't move his head side to side in an exaggerated motion or walk up stairs. Two weeks later, though, he was working out in the weight room. At that point, he knew his comeback was full speed ahead.
"I don't have any limitations," Williams said. "I'm full go right now. I feel a lot better than I felt last year."
Watch TU warm up and go through stretches, and you'll see Williams brings an infectious energy to the field.
Redshirt senior defensive end Trevis Gipson was Williams' roommate freshman year. He says he cried with Williams a year ago when he found out about his career ending. Now, Gipson is ecstatic his friend is back on the gridiron.
"Being able to play ball with him again after what happened with him last year is a blessing, honest to God truth," Gipson said. "I feel like he's going to bring a chip on his shoulder and put an even bigger one on mine."
Williams said he plans on making the most of his new life on the football field. He'll have one year of eligibility after the 2019 season.
"I prayed on it and God just took me with him and he lifted me up," Williams said. "My teammates and my family made sure I stayed positive about the whole situation.
"I'm with God right now, he'll tell me if I need to ease up a little."
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