The Vikings went from laughing stock to last laugh in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft.
The Vikings had a No. 7 pick in that draft and were trying to make a trade when the clock ran out and were pushed to No. 8. When they still could not make their selection on time after that, they were pushed. Down to number 9.
In the end, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue was able to announce that Minnesota had selected defensive Kevin Williams from Oklahoma State. And what a pick it turned out to be.
Williams played in the NFL from 2003–13 with the Vikings, Seattle in 2014 and New Orleans in 2015. He made six Pro Bowls and was named first-team All-Pro five times with the Vikings.
At halftime of Minnesota’s afternoon game against Cleveland at US Bank Stadium on Sunday, Williams will be inducted into the Vikings Ring of Honor. It was announced in June that Williams would become the 26th such honor, and it still hasn’t completely sunk in for the Arkansas native.
“It’s still kind of surreal to me,” said Williams, 41. “I can’t wrap my head around it. It’s something that’s very meaningful to me, and my name will always be in Vikings Stadium and part of Vikings’ history.
He laughed when Williams looked back on the strange way he joined the team. The Vikings were trying to trade back in the 2003 draft, when the clock ran out, not once but twice, to get some additional draft capital and because thrifty owner Red McCombs expected fewer drafters. The player will get less salary.
“They claimed they were trying to go back, but they found the guy they wanted,” said Williams, who said he never heard a word from the Vikings before the draft. “That’s what some of them said. But it worked. I was an excited young kid who was being drafted, and all the other hoopla didn’t matter because I just wanted to play football and I was especially in the top 10 Was excited to be selected.”
For the record, Jacksonville, who had initially moved over to Minnesota in that draft, picked quarterback Byron Leftwich, who had some solid seasons but was hardly great. And Carolina, who moved up to 8th place when the Vikings were still faltering, fought Jordan Gross, who scored three Pro Bowls.
As it turned out, the Vikings didn’t even get a pay break with the No. 9 pick because Williams had a clever agent in Tom Condon and was able to strike a deal for the same amount of money as Leftwich. But the Vikings weren’t complaining when the 6-foot-5, 311-pound Williams exploded onto the scene with 10½ sacks as a rookie in 2003 and again in 2004 with a career-high 11½ sacks, when all-pro and pro. Made bowl.
“We called him ‘Ticket,'” said Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield from 2004-12. “He was my boy. Kevin was an athlete. He was as big as he could really run. He had great technique, great leverage.”
When “Ticket” joined the Vikings, the Timberwolves had “The Big Ticket” in star forward Kevin Garnett. But when Garnett was boisterous, this rarely happened to Williams.
“He was a cool killer,” said Vikings defensive end Jared Allen from 2008-13.
Williams went about his business with a calm efficiency. He didn’t say much and rarely brag.
“I whistled while working,” he said. “I am very reserved. I just tried to work to the best of my ability – and I had fun on Sundays. When it was time to play the ball, I was able to turn a switch and field it.”
Did she ever From 2006–10, Williams made five straight Pro Bowls.
His numbers declined after Williams’ second season, and his best year after that was eight-and-a-half in 2008. A primary reason for this was to select teams to double Team Williams, but it opened things up for other players to get the sacks. A major beneficiary was Allen, who averaged 14.3 sacks per season during his years with the Vikings.
“It’s great to know that if they were going to focus on that in the interior, I was going to be free to go one by one,” Allen said.
Williams had 60 sacks in his 11 seasons with the Vikings, before adding three more sacks in the two years after leaving Minnesota. And when it came to stopping runs, Williams was as good as he came.
“The boy was a complete technician,” Allen said. “When you have a three-tech (defensive tackle) that can control half the line, it makes plays a lot easier for everyone else.”
From 2005–10, Williams teamed up with a nose tackle to Pat Williams, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, to include “Williams Wall”. The Vikings led the NFL in the Rushing Defense in 2006, 2007 and 2009, and finished second in 2008.
“Playing three-technique, that’s the motor that drives that defense, and Kevin Williams did it with anybody,” said Brad Childress, Minnesota head coach from 2006–10.
Childress said Williams was equally adept at catching passersby and stopping runs, and for this reason she believes she deserves to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“I think he should be,” said Childress, in the hall. “I think he was as good as he’s ever played (three-tech defensive tackle). Warren Sapp is in the hall of fame, and I think[Williams]was one of those guys who played Warren Sapp as well. He held that position as well.
Williams was eligible for the 2021 Hall of Fame class for the first time, but not surprisingly was among the 25 semi-finalists. He is on a list of 122 candidates for the class of 2022, and that will be reduced to 25 in November.
“I think the numbers and all that stuff, they speak for themselves,” Williams said of her Hall of Fame candidacy. “I think they compare to some of the other D-Tackles that are already out there. But I wasn’t the most outspoken and demonstrative person, so it can take a while, and people usually reward those who are more boisterous than me. But, hey, my humility has gotten me this far, so I’m going to rely on this to lead me.”
For now, Williams says he is “forever grateful” that the Vikings named him in Ring of Honor less than six years after he played his last NFL game, and for the last time he suited up for Minnesota. After less than eight.
Williams said he hoped to end his career with the Vikings, but that didn’t work out. He became a free agent shortly after replacing Leslie Frazier as head coach, who was fired by Mike Zimmer in March 2014, and the Vikings were looking to re-sign him as backup for Sharif Floyd, who reached the first round in 2013. was a draft pick.
“I didn’t think he had done enough,” Williams said. “I think I still had enough in the tank to beat him a few more years, but that was part of the process. He prepared people for positions.”
After not reaching the Super Bowl with Minnesota, Williams moved to Seattle, and he nearly won a championship, debuting in Super Bowl XLIX in February 2015. But the Seahawks were trailing New England 28-24 and facing another goal. Patriots 1 with 26 seconds left, Russell Wilson bowled a pass which was intercepted by Malcolm Butler. This was a controversial call as many believed that the call to play should have been run by Marshon Lynch.
“I think everyone in the country knows that if we give it to Marshawn, we’re probably going to be Super Bowl champions,” Williams said. “When the clock hit all zeros, I was deeply hurt, but I had to lift myself up and pray about it, and I’ve had a calmer feeling about it ever since.”
Williams retired after spending the 2015 season with the Saints and returned to Arkansas, where he lives in the Little Rock suburb of the Mayflower.
A few years ago, Williams started the trucking company Team Williams. He has an 18-wheeler and a pickup, which can be hired for short or long term, though he said business has slowed down recently due to the coronavirus pandemic.
This season, Williams became a volunteer assistant at Little Rock Central High School, where he works primarily along the defensive line. He’s deciding if he wants to go into coaching, but doesn’t want to in high school because “you have to teach a class.”
Joining Williams in the ring of honor will be his wife Tasha and their four children — daughters Mya, 17, and Aubrey, 10, and sons Deuce, 13, and Eliza, 6. Former teammates expected to be on hand include Pat Williams and more. Defensive tackle Fred Evans.
Allen, a good friend of Williams’s since joining the Vikings in 2008, would not be able to participate in the US Olympic Curling Team Qualification Tournament over the weekend in Ohio due to his team’s competition from Bir. The winning team will earn a berth to the US Olympic Trials.
“I couldn’t be more proud of him,” Allen said of Williams entering Ring of Honor. “It’s amazing. He’s one of my favorite people I’ve ever played with. He’s an amazing dude. He was such a great player, and he’s such a great person.”
On Sunday, Williams will see Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen and safety Harrison Smith, the only two players still with the team from their stints. Griffen, 33, was Williams’ teammate from 2010–13, and is given much credit for helping him continue his career.
“Kevin wasn’t a big talker, but he talked a lot on the field,” Griffen said. He said, “He helped me with my calls, he helped me stand in line, and I feel like that’s why I’m still playing. … ‘Ticket’ was a monster. He told me a lot.” Taught something, and I had the privilege of playing with him and being his teammate.