As he stood in the tunnel for his first game in a Chiefs uniform, with a public address announcer revving up a preseason Arrowhead Stadium crowd, defensive lineman Xavier Williams felt something resembling deja vu.
But not quite.
For years, he witnessed this scene — a group of Chiefs players waiting to be introduced, waiting to run through a sea of fog and greet their home fans.
He’d just never been on this side of it. Williams, a Grandview High School product, attended a handful of Chiefs game during his childhood.
On Thursday, as the Chiefs played host to the Texans in their preseason opener, he attended one as a player for the first time. Williams started on the interior of the defensive line and recorded one assisted tackle.
“It was amazing,” Williams said. “Walking out, seeing ‘Arrowhead’ on the turf, getting to walk through the fog and everything. I remember being a kid, cheering for those guys coming out, and now I am one of those guys. It’s amazing.”
During warmups, Williams scanned the ring of honor highlighting the franchise’s all-time best players. He made sure to find Derrick Thomas’ name, a player he idolized.
It was his first time stepping on the Arrowhead Stadium field. Williams played three seasons with the Arizona Cardinals before signing a 2-year, $5 million contract with the Chiefs in the offseason, but he never crossed paths with his hometown.
In the stands Thursday were his parents, girlfriend and young daughter.
“I was really trying to lock in,” Williams said. “I didn’t want my emotions to get the best of me before a game. It was hard, but I was trying to keep perspective what I was here for.”
He was brought to Kansas City to shore up a run defense that emerged as a weakness of the 2017 Chiefs. Williams played that role in Arizona as a nose tackle. He had 20 tackles and half a sack last season.
“The standard is the standard aground the league — you gotta stop the run,” Williams said. “You know, if I’m here, that’s what I’m here for — stop the run, help this defense out however I can.”