Minnesota Vikings 2003 first-round pick defensive tackle Kevin Williams decided to hang up his cleats and retire after 13 years in the NFL. Before he did, though, he wanted to make sure he retired with the team that drafted him and the one he spent 11 seasons with. Williams signed a one-day deal with the team on Wednesday to make sure it could happen.
The following day was the day that all the current players on the roster had to report to training camp and they had nothing but good things to say about Williams. Some players knew him as a teammate, some as a mentor, and, in one instance, a player remembered Williams giving him a welcome-to-the-NFL moment.
Offensive guard Alex Boone signed with the Vikings this offseason after playing with the San Fransisco 49ers for six seasons. He had the chance to go up against Williams during his rookie season and began to view the NFL a little differently after their meeting.
“True story with Kevin Williams,” Boone began. “First year starting, we’re going into the Metrodome, and thank God that we got a new stadium because that Metrodome was terrible. But we go out there and it’s about 10 o’clock (Pacific) time and I remember thinking the whole week, ‘Who’s Kevin Williams? And what the hell could he do to me?’ I’m like, ‘I’m young, he’s old. I’m good-looking, he’s not. I’ve got this sewn up.’ The first time ever I thought I had it. I went out there and he whipped me like a little boy, and I remember every play from that game, and I remember what he did to me. I never slept on him ever since then.”
Williams made his way to Seattle after he and the Vikings parted ways, so Boone had the opportunity to play him a couple more times. Even though Williams was in his 12th year in the NFL, and not the same player he once was, Boone still made sure to study him. He even went as far to say he paid more attention to Williams during his film sessions than he did Michael Bennett, who’s probably Seattle’s more dangerous defensive lineman.
Boone got the chance to talk to Williams after one of his games and he told the veteran defensive tackle that he probably respected him more than any other player in the league because of how bad he beat him in their first meeting.
It was definitely a learning experience for Boone, but it wasn’t the type of teaching that Williams usually did. All of his teammates loved him because of how approachable and humble of a player he was. Williams was on the roster when the Vikings drafted defensive end Everson Griffen and he took the rookie under his wing during his first year in the league.
“When I first came in the league, I played a lot of inside. I was three-technique,” Griffen explained. “I played on pass-rushing downs, so when they were throwing everything at me he said, get me on the field, ‘Young buck I got you.’ So he used to tell me what to do, so I love Kevin. But also Kevin, he was a humble man. He didn’t say too much. He was an excellent player and the game’s going to miss somebody like him.”
Williams has even garnered the respect from people in the Vikings organization who have never really met him. Mike Zimmer is the current head coach of the Vikings and even he had nothing but good things to say about Williams, even though he never truly got to know him.
“I never knew Kevin, I knew him, but I never coached him,” Zimmer said. “I was telling someone, ‘I sure wish I would have had him when he was a young guy.’ I know he was a tremendous player and that defensive front they had when they were really rolling was awfully good. Big, strong, fast athletes I always like.”
Williams was named as one of the top-50 Vikings of all time, and that is how people still remember him. A great player, but a good person, too.
“I was talking to Teddy (Bridgewater) yesterday in the locker room and telling him about Kevin and Pat (Williams) and how I wished he could have experienced having those guys in the locker room,” said Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. “So just congratulations to Kevin, he had an incredible career.”