STANFORD -- The regret wouldn't go away. Not in the mind of Stanford kicker Jordan Williamson, who suffered through moments of infamy this year after missing a potential game-winning field goal at the Fiesta Bowl.

In a scene that underscored the emotional punch of college football, the redshirt freshman sobbed in the locker room after Stanford's 41-38 overtime defeat to Oklahoma State. Williamson had missed three field goals, including one in the final seconds of regulation. He also missed a field goal in overtime that would have given his team the lead in Andrew Luck's final college game.

The unfortunate performance thrust Williamson into the national spotlight at a time he wanted to crawl into a cave and disappear. The Texan never had experienced anything close to what occurred in Glendale, Ariz.

"Up until the Fiesta Bowl I was pretty successful," Williamson said recently.

As a year of redemption draws to a close, he hopes to end the season Tuesday on solid footing as eighth-ranked Stanford faces Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. Williamson enters the game with a hardened exterior and a steely resolve to help his teammates when needed, which is something he did with a game-winning field goal in overtime against Oregon last month.

The transformation didn't come overnight, though. The long healing process began shortly after the defeat.

Williamson began wearing the Fiesta Bowl cap the players had received upon returning to school in January. He has worn it pretty much every day since, not so much like a scarlet letter but as an affirmation.

"I wanted to show people it wasn't something that I was afraid of," Williamson said. "Wearing the hat was a simple way of acknowledging what happened."

Acknowledging it was the first step. The unshakable support of teammates also helped wash away the tears. It touched Williamson's mom, Linda Burton, so deeply that she wrote an email letter thanking the families of his Cardinal teammates.

It said, in part, "While our family has learned many powerful life lessons over the last few days, one key message that has come clear like no other is 'WE ARE IN A SPECIAL PLACE.' Never in my life have I seen the kindness, maturity, and love that has been displayed by this Stanford family and in particular your AMAZING boys."

Three months later, Williamson missed his first point-after attempt during the annual spring game.

"It is all out of your system now," Williamson's high school coach, Anthony Wood, told him.

But the doubts kept creeping back whenever Williamson missed a kick, although almost all of the misses this season were the result of teamwide breakdowns.

"When you miss a kick after missing that kick, the Fiesta Bowl comes right back to the surface," father Grady Williamson said.

It took making a big kick to get over it.

Williamson made a 37-yard field goal in overtime last month to lift Stanford to a 17-14 victory over then-No. 1 Oregon. The game-winning kick helped lead the Cardinal (11-2) to its first Rose Bowl appearance in 13 seasons.

After the Oregon game, teammates streamed by to say how happy they were for him. "We knew deep down inside you probably weren't over it," they told him.

"That's when I felt more part of the team," Williamson said. "For a while, my own sense was I felt everyone was thinking about my performance in the Fiesta Bowl."

The outpouring of support from those who mattered most had helped ease the pain in the days after the Fiesta Bowl.

At home in Austin, Williamson called on his Westwood High coach for encouragement.

"You had to experience some failure before you can become a great kicker," Wood told his former star.

Williamson redoubled efforts to reach greatness.

"It's made him the kicker who he is," Wood said. "When people said he was a bad kicker, he has that 'I'll show you' attitude. Jordan doesn't lack confidence. He wants the ball. It doesn't bother him one single bit."

This season, Williamson has made 15 of 25 field goal attempts and all but one of 44 point-after kicks. He also has 29 touchbacks on 69 kickoffs.

Funny thing, Williamson never planned to play football. He played elite-level soccer for 13 years and didn't like it one bit when his junior high team had to share the field with football players. But Williamson tried kicking in eighth grade and got recruited to the Westwood freshman team.

He declined the first overtures, but Wood didn't let up. After Williamson made a 42-yarder in a freshman game, he got promoted to varsity.

The lure of Texas-style Friday Night Lights proved too attractive. Williamson put away his soccer gear and made 32 of 45 field-goal attempts at Westwood, including a school-record 52-yarder as a senior. The three-year varsity starter made all 93 of his extra-point attempts, the second-longest streak in Texas high school history.

Now his brother, Josh Burton, is Westwood's kicker. Linda Burton wasn't exactly thrilled at first.

"As soon as my brother said he wanted to do it, she said, 'OK now, I will have to deal with double the pressure.'—‰

Williamson is looking forward to the pressure of the Rose Bowl. He's feeling upbeat fixing a mechanical problem that saw balls trailing to the left.

"Everything is pretty straight now," Williamson said.

And that includes what goes on his head. Williamson plans to put the Fiesta Bowl cap aside as soon as the new one from Pasadena arrives.

Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865 and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond