49ers Star Trent Williams Shares Scary Story of His Cancer Diagnosis

Trent Williams has consistently been one of the best offensive linemen in the league since the Washington Redskins selected him with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. He has made a career out of getting dirty in the trenches. However, he experienced a life-changing moment that was more difficult than anything he could ever face on a football field.

Doctors diagnosed the San Francisco 49ers All-Pro left tackle with a rare form of cancer called Dermatofibrosarcoma Protuberans. Not only was Williams’ NFL career in jeopardy, but he also didn’t know how long he had to live. Now, arguably the best in the business at his position, he has opened up on the scary process and how it changed him forever.

Trent Williams details the moment he learned he had cancer

Trent Williams has been at the top of his for most of his career. The Oklahoma product has played 11 seasons in the NFL, but he missed the entire 2019 season due to a shocking cancer diagnosis.

In a recent appearance on the I Am Athlete podcast, the San Francisco 49ers star shared how he learned he had cancer and the years that led up to that moment.

“I didn’t tell a lot of people,” Williams said. “I didn’t let a lot of people in on that news on purpose. You know, I was sitting in a meeting bored, just playing with my hair, and I feel a little bump. I’m thinking it’s a hair bump. I had a headache associated with it. I called the trainer and booked the appointment with the doctor the next day.”

The team doctor initially thought the bump was a cyst back in 2014. Williams continued to play, but it kept getting larger over time. Years later, the team set up an appointment with an oncologist, and the Pro Bowl tackle knew things were worse than they originally seemed.

“The main doc hadn’t come in yet,” said Williams. “But the nurse, she already got tears in her eyes. I’m like, ‘It’s over with.’ I’m thinking my career is over. I felt like I had a lot more to prove. I ain’t ready to walk away right now. The main doc comes in, and he was holding it together at first. But his eyes start tearing up.”

He’s like, ‘Football is the least of your worries right now. Get close to the people who are important. You need to get your affairs in order. Once he said that, I was shocked, speechless.”

‘I Am Athlete’ crew calls out the NFL and its team doctors

Trent Williams first noticed the bump near his hairline in 2014, which was his fifth year in the NFL. He suggests the team doctor didn’t believe it was a life-or-death situation at the time, even after he told him the lump was getting bigger.

“It’s in camp, and you don’t want to miss no camp, so they push it back another year,” said Williams. “I come back, and at this point, coach gave me a little time to rest because I had a knee issue. This was in ’17. They were like, ‘We don’t really have anybody available at this time, it ain’t really that important.’”

Williams noted he had a knee and thumb procedure in 2018, but the doctors still didn’t feel the issue was urgent. Eventually, the Longview, Texas native got tired of waiting.

“I lock them in the training room, and I’m like, ‘Y’all make the appointment right now.'”

Obviously, it turned out to be much more than a cyst, as the Washington team doctor suggested. The I Am Athlete crew questioned how the league and team doctors could let something like that happen.

“I always felt like we had the best doctors,” said former linebacker D.J. Williams. “And we do these physicals every year. How does this happen?”

“How does the NFL miss this?” added Pacman Jones. “If your knee breaks, I bet they can put it back together. If your piss dirty, they gonna tell you everything in your piss. We got all these doctors but can’t find something wrong with something else.”

The 49ers All-Pro beat the odds

49ers offensive tackle Trent Williams looks on during a game
Trent Williams of the San Francisco 49ers on the field during game against the Philadelphia Eagles | Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Hearing the cancer diagnosis from the oncologist was a terrifying moment for Trent Williams. Thankfully, the tumor hadn’t fully metastasized through his skull. Doctors were able to remove it successfully.

Williams returned to the NFL in 2020 as a member of the 49ers. Despite missing a year of football, he continued to play at an elite level, making the Pro Bowl in back-to-back seasons. Williams earned First-Team All-Pro honors in 2021.

While football has returned to his life, the offensive tackle will never forget what he went through and how it changed him forever.

“I think that part of my life I learned the most about myself, Williams said per NFL.com. “When tragedy strikes, everybody always thinks about the impact and whether you survive or not. Hardly ever do you think about how it feels to start from square one.”

Trent Williams is thankful to still be alive and get to do what he loves.

“I definitely do give thanks for every day that I’m here because I know how fragile life is. Regardless of your age, it all could change in the blink of an eye. But for the most part, I just feel like I’m maxing out my potential. I think it would be hard for me to sleep at night, knowing that I was abundantly blessed with an ability and with a physical set of traits, and I didn’t take advantage of it.”

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