Williams returns to home state without dad

December, 13, 2013
12/13/13
5:15
PM ET
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Dan Williams' pregame routine changed forever Sept. 20.

Williams
His father, Thomas, was killed that day in a car accident while driving from Memphis to New Orleans to see the Cardinals play the Saints. Since, Sundays haven't been the same.

Before every game, Thomas would call Dan to give him his own personal pep talk, and it was more than just a conversation between father and son. Thomas was a football fanatic. He loved the game. He was in 30 fantasy football leagues, Dan said -- three live and 27 online -- and each one was named for a different family member.

For the first time since the accident, Dan will be returning to Tennessee in uniform Sunday, albeit in Nashville to play the Titans, about three hours from his hometown of Memphis. Awaiting him will be 33 friends and family -- all thanks to Dan's generosity.

But the group will be missing one person.

"I still believe he's watching and he's still my biggest fan in heaven," Dan said. "We just go from there. I still have a lot of family and friends supporting me. I'm excited to see them."

The trip to Nashville will undoubtedly conjure up his father's memory.

During Dan's first training camp in 2010, the Cardinals spent a week practicing with the Titans and Thomas spent every day with Dan. But Dan's done well handling his father's death. The biggest adjustment came against Carolina in Week 5 when Dan returned to the Cardinals after missing two games. He didn't get that phone call. Thomas wouldn't be in the stands. He's at peace with it now and Dan understands Thomas' loss doesn't just affect him.

"It's been a major change for not just me but for my whole family," he said. "I still get to talk to my mom. She talks to me after every game 'cause she'll never talk to me before the game, even when was here.

"But she still calls me after the game. We still do some things the same, with him not being here. I do believe he's still watching 'cause anybody who knows my dad knows he's probably the biggest football fan ever."

Josh Weinfuss

ESPN Arizona Cardinals reporter

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