Kevin Williams: The quiet rock in the middle
It's not the tryptophan talking. It's a holiday classic tale to get you in the mood for the mall gridlock to come.
Before the family feeling of Thanksgiving got trampled by the crass commercialism of Black Friday coming Thursday night (too late!), there is still time to give thanks.
Vikings fans should take a moment to appreciate what Kevin Williams has provided to the franchise and the fan base. He wasn't the guy popping off in the media. He wasn't the guy whose mug shot led the local news. He was (and is) the rudder to the Vikings ship in terms of defense.
His career began as inauspiciously as any could. For a quick refresher course, perhaps no blue-chip draftee has come to a team under worse circumstances than Williams.
Thanks to an epic due-diligence trade gaffe, the Vikings war room (the same people who brought you Troy Williamson, the William Hung of wide receivers) was convinced a trade had been consummated with the Ravens. The problem was that Baltimore didn't get the trade finalized into the Radio City Music Hall in time and two teams jumped the Vikings when the clock expired. The franchise was publicly pantsed.
For the record, the two players taken in front of the Vikings when The Gaffe happened were Byron Leftwich and oft-injured offensive tackle Jordan Gross. The anticipated trade between the Vikings and Ravens was going to be a case of Minnesota having the smartest guys in the room. They were convinced they could trade down and get the player they coveted – Williams.
Complicating matters was a capacity crowd at the team facility for the annual draft party. Face-painters had been getting fueled up for hours. A radio play-by-play announcer whose name has been changed – we'll call him Dyslexic Allen Paul – started a chant of "Suggs! Suggs! Suggs!" among the purple Kool-Aid enthusiasts.
When then-Commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced the Vikings had selected Williams, the reaction from the hard core fan base was effectively saying en masse "Who?"
Eleven seasons later, the Ring of Honor needs to make more room. He has scored on two interception returns and two fumble returns. He went from All-Rookie to All-Pro and played in six Pro Bowls. All the while, he was tallying close to 700 tackles and close to 60 sacks.
Williams has been a foundation block of the franchise for 11 years. What started out as the punch line to a joke as the draft clock ticked down to 0:00 has since been proved to be a draft day masterstroke.
When he lines up Sunday, it will be the 174th NFL game (all starts) of his career. The maximum possible games he could have played at this point would be 178. He lost two games in 2005 due to injury, Since then, the only games he has missed were StarCaps related.
At a time where Minnesotans are counting their blessings, Vikings fans should take a moment to acknowledge a load-bearing beam of the Vikings defense. There may only be one month left in Williams' Vikings career, but it may be time to recognize the body of work that Williams has provided to the franchise.
If the Vikings had 53 Kevin Williamses on the roster, they would have won a Super Bowl by now.
Epilogue: The enduring moment of Draft Day 2013 was the announcement of Williams as the Vikings selection, not Suggs. A crowd whipped up into a froth anticipating Suggs was livid. Head coach Mike Tice actually had to ask the crowd to "calm down." As order was seemingly restored, a woman alive during the Great Depression worked her way up as far as barriers allowed and flipped off Tice for making the pick. Who's flying the middle finger now?
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
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