In the late hours of 2006 and early hours of the new year in 2007, Darrent Williams, like so many Americans, was out celebrating the new year with some of his teammates and close friends.
The Broncos jumped out to a 13-point lead, but eventually squandered it, allowing the 'Niners to tie up the game and eventually win it in overtime on a Joe Nedney kick.
"You kind of know your last game in college," Darrent once said. "In the NFL, you're trying to keep fighting to get to that last game. Sometimes you don't make it to the last game. You're not guaranteed to have that last game with everybody watching. You've just got to play every game as if it's your last.”
He embodied this ideal better than any with his last game.
With the team knocked out of the playoffs, players went out that night to enjoy New Year's Eve, a luxury that would not have been present had Denver taken care of business. With that, Darrent Williams, D.J. Williams, Javon Walker and Brandon Marshall were out at a Denver night club to celebrate the birthday of former Denver Nugget, Kenyon Martin.
At roughly 2 a.m. New Years Day, a man by the name of Willie Clark fired on a white stretch Hummer limousine. One of the bullets found flesh, a gunshot wound to the neck of Darrent Williams, which took his life. Also wounded were Brandon Flowers and Nicole Reindl.
Pat Bowlen was shaken by the loss.
“All of us are devastated by this tragedy," he said. "To lose a young player, and more important, a great young man such as Darrent Williams, is incomprehensible. To lose him in such a senseless manner as this is beyond words. My deepest feelings, all my thoughts and prayers, go out to Darrent’s mother and family. The entire Broncos’ organization shares my grief. Darrent was a wonderful young man, and his passing is a great loss for his family, the Broncos and the city.”
Coach Mike Shanahan said the killing left him "speechless with sadness."
"We all know that Darrent was an excellent player, but as a person, he was a first-class young man who brightened every room with his smile, attitude and personality," Shanahan said. "I cannot express how heartsick I feel at this loss."
Just hours earlier, Darrent played a great game against San Francisco, tallying 8 tackles to go along with 1 sack. He also contributed a punt return for 34 yards and a kick return for 46 yards, flashing the big-play ability that always gave life to the team and to the fans.
Waking up on January 1st, 2007, the new year brought hope and possibility. After turning on the news, that hope turned to ashes quickly as the Denver community was rocked by the tragic news.
In two short years in Denver as a member of the hometown Broncos, Williams became a fan favorite. He was enthusiastic, energetic, personable and he was a leader. He was loved in the locker room. He became a role model for kids; a 5'8 cornerback who made his living by defending receivers taller than 6 feet. For a man just 24 years of age, he had wisdom beyond his years, stayed out of trouble and immersed himself within the community.
"He was the greatest player I have coached in my 20 years. He wanted to prove to the world that he could play. ... He wanted to prove himself, and that's the way he approached every game. It was what made him a great player," said Oklahoma State secondary and special teams coach Joe DeForest.
The Broncos created the Darrent Williams Good Guy Award in his honor, which is given annually to the Broncos player who best exemplifies Williams’ enthusiasm, cooperation and honesty, while dealing with members of the press. Darrent's presence is still felt in Denver, as the Broncos opened a community center for teens in his name in 2008, which is thriving to this day.
The loss of Darret Williams has left a hole in the community that hasn't been filled eight years later. He is still remembered by the fans. He is still remembered by his teammates. His was a personality that will never be forgotten.
Williams is survived by his son, Darius and daughter, Jaelyn.