Marcus Williams doesn't talk about the play anymore.

He buried all talks of it on that Jan. 14 evening in a somber visitor's locker room in Minneapolis.

"Just overcome it," Williams said that day. "You can't let it beat you down."

That's been Williams' approach for the past nine months.

That's been his approach for the past four years of his young, just-turned-22-years-old life.

The Saints' second-year safety has overcome tough times before.

So for Williams, perhaps Sunday's return to the place where his miscue led to the Minnesota Miracle — Stefon Diggs' game-winning touchdown with no time left, giving the Vikings a stunning win over the Saints in the NFC divisional playoffs — really is "just another game."

That's the response he repeated over and over again this week whenever he was asked about the loss.

He's approaching it as just another game. But it won't be.

It's the first time one of his biggest fans won't be watching him play.

Williams' grandfather, Richard Glennon Boyd, died Tuesday, losing a battle with lung cancer that eventually spread to his abdomen.

Williams has been down this road before.

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He lost his cousin, Jessica Grubbs, to breast cancer two years ago. She was only 31.

A year and a half before that, his aunt, Dionne Wren, affectionately known as "Annie Ray Ray," lost her fight with breast cancer as well.

"Cancer is one of those trials in his life," said Franschell Williams, Marcus' mom. "It's a much bigger issue than a Vikings game. That's his challenge. What happens on the field is work, and he can put that behind him. These are personal challenges that he overcomes, and he does what he needs to do on and off the field."

Williams' grandfather, who was 79, played a major role in his life.

Boyd wasn't just his grandfather. He was his youth basketball coach and his taxi driver, dropping off Williams and picking him up from school when he was a kid in California.

"He learned the value of saving a dollar from his grandfather," Franschell Williams said. "He was always watching his performance on the field and constantly telling him where he was excelling and where he needed improvement. He was a strong influence in his life."

During the Saints' bye two weeks ago, Williams spent the weekend with his grandfather. They watched football on TV that day.

It was the last time they ever talked football again.

Boyd went into a hospital the next day and died eight days later, five days before his grandson's return to Minnesota.

While Williams doesn't talk about his last trip there, it's clear that it motivated him.

In March, he posted a video on social media, showing how he was using that play as fuel.

"Turning my nightmare to my motivation," he tweeted.

"I think he's responded well," Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen said. "I think he's on to playing football and worried about trying to be the best that he can be for us right now."

Williams' teammates, much like Williams, say they have put the playoff game in the rear-view mirror. But they know the questions will come. And they know NBC will show the play a time or two during Sunday night's broadcast.

"It's like when your mom buys you a car and you get in a car crash, and now every time you drive it after that, she says, 'Don't get in another car crash,’ ” Saints running back Alvin Kamara said. "You're thinking, 'Damn, when are you going to stop talking about it?’ 

"We're moving on. This isn't a team that dwells on impurities or imperfections. This is football. It's not a perfect game. If it was a perfect game, every team would go undefeated and win the Super Bowl every year."

That's where the Saints, riding a five-game winning streak, are trying to get after getting close a season ago.

You might have forgotten, but in that playoff game, Williams' interception helped the Saints get back in it after they trailed 17-0 at halftime.

But it was what Williams did immediately after the game — owning up to his mistake in that postgame interview — that will have at least three New Orleans residents proudly sporting No. 43 jerseys to U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.

"As a father of three young boys, one of the hardest things to do is to get them to recognize when they have made a mistake while doing something but to keep trying," Saints fan Andrew Geiger said. "The way Marcus handled himself after that play, and the way he continues to carry himself on and off the field, is a perfect example of how I want my kids to act when faced with adversity."

Geiger, Tarun Jolly and Aaron Motwani will be sitting in Section 339 of U.S. Bank Stadium.

Their three jerseys, plus an additional seven they bought and got signed by Williams, will be auctioned off next week, with proceeds going to the American Cancer Society.

"We wanted to wear his jersey in Minnesota to show that Saints fans are totally behind Marcus," Geiger said. "We figured collectively we can turn the negative into even a more positive by getting him on board. Marcus was really gung-ho about it and thought it was a great idea. I think it was pretty clear that he's glad to see something good came out of it."

The money will specifically go to help the Hope Lodge, a New Orleans facility that provides lodging and transportation for people battling cancer.

"I can't tell you how much respect I have for him," Jolly said. "He took responsibility immediately. That's the true sign of a leader: Someone who owns up and doesn't make any excuses. Who can't rally behind a person who wants to be better and who wants to help others?"

Williams has put his support for cancer research on display before. Last season during the NFL's My Cause, My Cleats initiative week, he wore pink cleats with his aunt and cousin's picture on them, in memory of his two relatives.

This week, again, he's coping with the loss of a loved one taken by the disease.

His grandfather won't get to tune into the TV and watch him play this time.

But his parents will be there, supporting No. 43.

"You can tell it bothers him, but at the same time, he's still taking care of his business," said Sly Williams, Marcus' dad. "That's just how he is."

He was referring to how Williams is handling the death of his grandfather, not how he is handling his return to Minnesota.

That's just another game.


Follow Rod Walker on Twitter, @rwalkeradvocate.