The Ultimate Buffalo Bill: Kyle Williams Reflective as Playoff Berth Nears
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.—As practice winds down in the Buffalo Bills’ ADPRO Training center, 34-year-old Kyle Williams runs through last-minute defensive end drills like a giddy little kid. He pushes and shoves some of his teammates, laughing heartily. It’s the week before Christmas, and that probably has something to do with it, but that’s not the only reason Williams is in such a jovial mood. He’s like this all season long, because he loves football. He loves his teammates. He loves Buffalo. And with the Bills sniffing a playoff berth for the first time in 17 years, he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world, which is ideal since Williams is the longest tenured Bill by a mile.
“I told the guys the other night, we have the opportunity to play and be in a city that celebrates hard work and grit,” Williams told me after practice. “And it’s not like everywhere else in the world. That’s why it’s so easy for me to really care about the people here because they can see themselves in us, and we can see ourselves in them. Tough, blue collar—everything this city is about is everything I’ve ever based my career on.”
Williams didn’t have any preconceived notions about the Queen City when he was first drafted in the fifth round of the 2006 NFL Draft. The Ruston, Louisiana native and LSU alum hadn’t heard much about Western New York or anywhere else in the northeast for that matter. When he arrived, he spent his first five weeks living in a hotel without a vehicle, participating in OTA’s and minicamp, and getting used to the rigors of the offseason as a bright-eyed rookie.
“It was pretty tough those first few weeks. But as I got into the season, got myself a car and started settling in here, I very quickly recognized that this was a place I really liked and felt comfortable in.”
Over the years, Williams and his wife began investing in the community and building a family—they now have five kids ages 10, 9, 6, 4 and 2. And when his oldest daughter was ready to go to school, they started house hunting. But at a wedding back in Louisiana, Williams fell into a conversation with Drew Hull, the son of Bills legendary center, Kent Hull. Drew told Williams that his father raised their family in Buffalo and Mississippi, spending six months in one and six months in the other. He loved having a ton of friends in both places.
“I talked to my wife and we decided to try the same thing with Louisiana and we really like it because we get a little taste of home and family there, but we also enjoy our time here as well,” Williams said.
Other than packing up after the end of the season and heading back to his home state for the spring and summer, Williams says he never really thought about leaving Buffalo. This is his team, and he takes a lot of pride being part of the community. So, when people or reporters ask him why he’s stayed here his entire career, instead of jumping to another team in a bigger city, bigger market and with at least one playoff appearance in the last decade, Williams is quick to guffaw.
Why would he leave?
Other players who have come to Buffalo from other teams or via the draft often only look at Buffalo in its two basic terms: cold and snowy. But Williams has seen the same attachment he quickly developed to the region. Those same players spend a season here, maybe more, and find they are hooked.
“It’s real,” he said, stone faced. “I’ve seen it a lot. Over the years, I’ve seen it not just with players but also with friends and family who come to visit and have never been here before. They are here for a game weekend and spend time in the city and they don’t want to leave. I’ve had more people say to me, ‘man this place is awesome.’ And I’m always like, ‘yeah, I know. let’s not share my little secret.’”
Williams’ profound connection and deep love of Buffalo not only sustains him off the field, but also drives him on the field. He wants more than anything to help bring the fans the return to postseason football they crave, but also wants more. The purpose, he says, isn’t just to make the playoffs, but becoming an AFC Champion and even a Super Bowl Champion. For Williams, his ultimate goal doesn’t just live and die with the playoffs. He strives for something higher, something bigger. He wants Buffalo to remember him.
Now in his 12th NFL season, Williams is a free agent next season. He says he’s not thinking about his future. He’s keenly focused on how he can help lead in the locker room and get the team ready to pull out a must-win against the Miami Dolphins instead. Still, local and national media can’t help but ask about his plans.
“When we go in the offseason, whenever that will be, it may be at the forefront of my mind because there is still so much unknown,” Williams said. “So right now, I’m just trying to enjoy what we have going on right now and whatever happens after the season, the team and I will try to figure out together.”
In truth, Williams would like to retire in Buffalo. He’s been here for over a decade. He’s invested his heart, family, sweat, blood and yes, tears. For some players, a little lightbulb often goes off that tells them when it’s time to retire. Williams says his lightbulb hasn’t gone off yet.
“I still love to play. I still love to prepare and do all the work involved. I love being around the team. So, we’ll see what happens. I honestly don’t know.
But if Williams were to retire or play elsewhere, he has one small wish of the fanbase for which he was been intertwined for over a decade.
“Twenty years from now, when this organization has won a few Super Bowls and accomplished great things, I just want fans to look back and say, ‘you know who would have been great to have on this team—Kyle Williams.’”