Trevor Williams didn't know what to say or how to act.
On Sept. 4, the cornerback was summoned to Chargers Park and told he'd been waived as the team whittled the roster down to 53.
It was the first time Williams failed to make a team. Always among the most talented and athletic players, he didn't know how to handle the situation.
"That was the first time I've ever been cut in anything," he said, shaking his head. "Any tryout whether it was football, basketball, lacrosse; I'd never gotten cut. It was an unreal feeling when it happened. I knew there was a chance it could happen. I gave it all I could, but it was hard. It gave me extra motivation."
Among the disappointment and shock, the silver lining was that the Chargers wanted him to be a member of the team's practice squad. Soon after, Williams spoke with Jason Verrett, and the Pro Bowl cornerback gave him advice that not only lifted his spirits, but sent him down an important path.
"Verrett told me 'Be ready bro because we are going to need you. You never know when it is going to be, but your time is going to come.' Each and every day I would come out to practice and give it my all so that when the time came, I wouldn't let my teammates down."
Verrett's words proved fortuitous as Williams was promoted to the active roster prior to Week 5's game against Oakland. With Casey Hayward as the only cornerback to appear in all 10 games for the Bolts, Williams has had his number called upon each game at some juncture.
Whether in for a handful of plays or an extended period of time, the undrafted free agent out of Penn State has held his own. He expects opposing quarterbacks to test him when he's on the field, and doesn't take it as a sign of disrespect. Instead, Williams looks at it as another opportunity to prove his worth.
"If I was the quarterback, I'd test me, too. Especially with the other guys we have on our defense. I would think the same. Nobody knows who I am, and I am just trying to earn my credibility and respect in this league."
Ironically, one of the players he's had to replace is the man who gave him the motivating piece of advice. He's also become one of Williams' biggest fans.
"He had to be ready," Verrett said. "That's the main thing that (Defensive Coordinator) John Pagano and (Defensive Backs Coach Ron) Milus always preach. The next guy that steps up has got to be ready. That's what I told Trevor. And Trevor, he's been tremendous lately. I saw flashes of this in training camp. The plays he was making, he'd get up and celebrate, and that's part of our vibe. When you make a play, celebrate it. He's really stepped up. He's been doing a good job for us."
The Pro Bowl cornerback isn't the only player Williams looks up to in the room. He's formed a tight bond with Hayward as the pair go out on the field together pregame to prepare.
"Oh Casey, he's helped me a lot with fundamentals and technique. He helps me with my splits and recognizing receiver tendencies. Pregame, we will go out and work out together. He will tell me what to look out for what may come across that day."
The 5-11, 191-pound CB was a two-time All-Big Ten honorable mention selection as a junior and senior at Penn State. However, he is still relatively new to the position after switching to cornerback from wide receiver after his freshman year.
While he had offers from a multitude of teams after the draft, he couldn't think of a better situation to enter than San Diego's defensive backs room which is why he elected to join the Bolts.
"I've been trying to work hard each and every day to earn their trust and respect. I thought I'd have a chance to be drafted, but when that didn't happen, I thought this would be the best opportunity for me. It has been. I've always believed in myself and worked at my craft."
It's clear the Bolts believe in Williams as well, as they have shown no fear when he is thrust into action. In fact, when pressed into the most duty of his career in Atlanta, they even had him line up against Julio Jones.
"I get excited about that," he said. "Think about it. I've been watching these guys since I was in high school, and now I am across from someone like Julio. I want to get the chance to cover those guys. I never shy away from those situations. I want them. It's definitely my time to shine. That's how I approach it."
Williams' confidence and swagger is part of the reason why the Bolts trust the young rookie. Add in the way he has played on special teams and it is easy to see why the Chargers are bullish on the rookie.
"Trevor is a young player who has made the most of his opportunities," Head Coach Mike McCoy said. "That is what this business is all about. We always talk to them when they first get here. Just keep working. You have a lot to learn, so learn from the veterans and when you get the opportunity, take advantage. He had the big play in Atlanta he made down in the red area. He has also done a really nice job in the kicking game. His reps have increased defensively from week to week as a result."