A year ago, Redskins left tackle Trent Williams sat at home in Week 17, watching his teammates lose for the third time in four weeks to close out the 2011 season.
Williams was serving the fourth and final game of his NFL suspension for a failed drug test. Looking back on it one year later, it was exactly the wakeup call he needed to turn his career around.
Williams rededicated himself to working out and preparing his body in the offseason. He understood that another failed drug test could land a one-year suspension, but a much smaller slip-up would lose the trust of his coaches.
"You don't worry about nothing else but that particular snap and rep," Williams said during training camp. "I compete and I hate losing. I feel like I've got a point to prove.
"I'm trying to be the best. Not just better—I want to be dominant."
Williams got off to a fast start and proved to head coach Mike Shanahan that he deserved another shot at being team captain.
Together with the rest of the offensive line, Williams kept Robert Griffin III protected and opened holes for the most prolific rushing offense in the NFL this season, averaging 162.3 yards per game on the ground.
Even battling a severe leg bruise since Week 12, Williams has refused to sit out, playing the best football of his career during the seven-game run to the playoffs.
Williams said during training camp that he intends to play at an elite level every week, silencing critics who said he lacks consistency and motivation.
"I want to play a Pro Bowl-level all year long," he said. "But you can't control the Pro Bowl. I want to win and keep my quarterback clean. I just want to be dominant."
Now, one year after watching his teammates limp to the finish line without him, he has helped lead them to the playoffs. For his efforts, Williams was named to the NFC Pro Bowl squad, with votes from fans, players and coaches around the league.
"I set out at the beginning of the year – well, really, since I got drafted – just to be honored as one of the top players in the NFL," Williams said. "For that to come true in my third year is truly exciting."
The development has not gone unnoticed by his coaches, whom openly campaigned for his consideration.
"To me, [the Pro Bowl] is one of the biggest honors you can have," said head coach Mike Shanahan. "[Williams] has made some tremendous strides since he's been here. We always knew the type of athlete that he was, but for him to go back to the basics, be accountable and do the little things the right way—it's always nice to see him get rewarded for the way he's played and the way he has handled himself."
Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has overseen Williams's development since his rookie season, and said this year was the graduation from potential to production.
"I think his hunger level is outstanding. He loves playing and he always shows up on gameday," Shanahan said. "From OTA's on this year, he's really showed up really trying to detail his technique and stuff – not just depending on being such a good talent.
"He fought through a bunch of injuries for about a month. He's a lot healthier now. He's just done a hell of a job as a leader, as a player. He's helped our team, he's helped himself individually. I'm glad he got what he deserved, because he definitely deserved to be in the Pro Bowl."
For Williams, representing the Redskins in Honolulu is just the latest step in showing the entire National Football League the type of player that he intends to be.
"It shows how much I've grown and how much I've learned," he said. "A lot of people make mistakes and keep making them. Just to know that I've grown from them and become a better person and ultimately a better player, it's gratifying."