Williford hopes for a 2013 to remember

Josh Williford has returned to full strength after missing most of the 2012 season with a serious concussion. He remembers little about that day, and the weeks following it were the toughest he's faced. But he's moved past it and is ready for a senior year to remember.

Some players choose to forget a tough loss, like LSU's 14-6 defeat against Florida last year.

Josh Williford didn't have that option.

The concussion he sustained against the Gators forcibly removed that memory from his head. The only thing he knows about that day comes from the film he's watched since then.

"The scariest sensation was waking up the next day, knowing we had a game the day before, and not knowing what happened," Williford said. "I didn't know what I was doing."

He's had people piece together the moments after his concussion. The team doctors said he was slow to respond once they reached him on the field. His mom said he kept asking after the game what was for dinner, while holding a box of Chick-fil-A. The next morning, his friend said he pronounced a sentence completely backwards.

The memory loss and the constant headaches made the next few days difficult ones. He spent all his time in a dark room, resting in his bed. The sensitivity to light and noise meant no cell phone or television.

Toughest of all, it kept him from watching his teammates.

"The worst part was on Saturdays," Williford said. "I couldn't watch the TV because of my head. I did everything I could just to listen to it. The first Saturday after, I just had to keep asking how they're doing. It made it easier, but I really wanted to be out there."

Williford tried returning to the field three weeks later, before LSU's game against Alabama. He had passed all the tests and was able to perform light workouts without getting a headache.

But something was different once he really started playing. He remembers hitting former linebacker Kevin Minter. The contact wasn't exceptionally hard, but he said it felt like his head was about to explode.

"I just wasn't ready yet," Williford said. "And that was my body's way of telling me."

Williford was eventually cleared to play, three days before the Tigers' final game of the season. But he never suited up again in 2012, all because of that one concussion.

Williford's mother is a nurse, and he had several high school teammates suffer serious concussions. So he knew the severity of what he was facing. But he'll admit there was pressure to return before he was completely healed. The stigma that football players must suck it up is still present in the game.

The equipment managers have since given him a new helmet, one Williford said is better at absorbing blows. He also knows he's now in more danger of sustaining another concussion after that first major one.

But he also knows how to best handle it.

"Don't take it lightly," Williford said. "If you have a concussion, the only thing you can do to get better is to remove stimulation. Put your phone away. Turn the TV off and get some rest. Anything you do to stimulate your brain is just going to prolong the time you're out."

Williford is now at full strength. Though Trai Turner replaced him as the starting RG last season, Williford has been working as the first-team LG through the early days of fall camp.

The most veteran member of the offensive line, Williford is considered the jack-of-all-trades type that can fit in at all five positions. He said he could step in a game tomorrow and play tackle, guard or center.

And if there's one benefit that concussion has given him, it's that he now has a greater appreciation for what he's earned in football.

"We have some very talented guys on the O-Line, and I'm just here to compete," Williford said. "Whatever position, I'm going to push myself to earn a starting job. It's not just given to you. That's what I like about our O-Line. We're constantly getting pressured by the guy behind us because they keep improving."

What are your expectations for Williford in 2013


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