Kyle Williams doesn't do social media, so it wasn't until his wife showed him the viral video of his emotional speech in the dressing room after the Buffalo Bills' victory Sunday that he realized his audience had extended well beyond teammates and coaches.
"To be honest with you, anything that I've always done, whether it's been pre- or postgame, has always been in the locker room just because I feel like I want to reveal myself to my team because they have earned all of me," Williams said Tuesday, on his way to a workout at One Bills Drive. "Sometimes those cameras sneak up on me; I forget they're there. And then it's raw and it's real and then it comes out and I'm like, 'Ah, man, I didn't know that camera was right there.' "
What a camera and microphone caught after the Bills' dramatic, 30-27 win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was coach Sean McDermott praising his players for showing "heart" and pointing out that they "kept standing, kept standing" in a fourth-quarter rally. He reminds them they've been told they're "not good enough" and that what they achieved was a "team win" before instructing Williams "to break us down."
Williams, minus his jersey, then steps forward. With McDermott in the middle joining hands in the air with the veteran defensive tackle and other players, Williams, fighting back tears and with his voice cracking, says: "Can't overstate it. Man, I love you guys. You're going to get me choked up, man."
— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) October 22, 2017
Then, Williams screams, "I love playing with you! Stuff you got in your necks, stuff you've got in your belly, man. I love it! I love it! Let's keep grinding, keep working. There's a hell of a lot to correct, right? A hell of a lot. Let's do it. I know you'll tackle the day and we'll get to work. Let's keep climbing, let's keep standing, let's keep building."
Williams received texts from friends commenting on the speech. He understands that a peek behind the curtain at a time when there's so much excitement among Bills fans because of the team's 4-2 start would generate plenty of interest.
And what the fans saw was about as authentic a glimpse of life on the inside as they're going to get. "If I get riled up, I forget anything's around me and you're getting the real, raw look," Williams said.
It also was an opportunity to better understand what the most senior member of the Bills, a 12th-year NFL veteran, sees in a team that wasn't expected to do anything except extend the longest active playoff drought in North American major professional sports to an 18th season.
Williams, 34, has been around too long and has seen too many fast starts quickly dissolve into disastrous finishes to make any lofty predications about what will happen through the final 10 games of the regular season.
However, he will say, definitively, what sort of team he has around him. "With all certainty, I can vouch for these guys," Williams said. "They're going to compete every single snap from now until New Year's Eve, when our last regular-season game is (at Miami), and then we'll look up and see where we are."
It's that deep faith in the character of each individual wearing the same uniform he does that largely caused him to become so emotional after Sunday's game.
"It's hard to explain clearly where everybody can understand what a team is if you're not involved in a team," Williams said. "And not just a team in general, I mean in that specific team. If you're not in it every day and you don't see how close guys are, the way guys communicate, the way guys support each other in good times and in bad, it's hard to get a full understanding of how you're all connected.
"It goes beyond a few practices a week, some workouts and we go and play and everybody (says), 'Oh, everybody plays hard. I kind of like these guys.' There's an emotional connection because of the time that we spend together, of how we support each other beyond the game, of being a tight-knit group. Then, that brings in the emotion of doing something that's so hard to do, that requires so much of you, and you've got so many guys doing it all at once and going in the same direction.
"I mean, that's rare, especially in professional sports because you have so many distractions, you have so many personalities and so many issues. When you can get guys rowing in the same direction, believing the same things, saying the same things, competing in a way that we talked about competing and at the end of the day, you get so many guys that are contributing to wins, making big plays — you've got veteran guys, you've got rookies, you've got guys who people have gotten rid of. It's just a really cool experience."
Something else moved Williams to tears. It was remembering that during the offseason, he wasn't entirely sure he was going to be a part of this year's squad. At this stage of his career, nothing is a given, especially when another new coach and another new general manager enter the picture.
"It was like, well, we'll see what they want to do with me, if they want me to be a part of it, because you just never know," Williams said. "This is quite a tricky business to be involved in and then talking to Sean and hearing his vision and getting (defensive coordinator) Leslie (Frazier) and (defensive line coach Mike) Waufle and getting to know (General Manager) Brandon (Beane) and their vision for what they wanted their team to look like. I was like, 'Man, I can get down with that.' That's an awesome vision and what I've always envisioned the team being.
"Obviously, that kind of stuff doesn't happen overnight or in a season or in an offseason. But I think you can definitely see the makeup of that on Sundays. Just the way the guys are passionate about each other, passionate about playing, the way that they compete, they never quit. I mean, there's a lot to love in there.
"When your greatest talent is that you'll just not quit, that's a lot of fun to be in a locker room full of guys like that."
Thanks to a camera and a microphone, the rest of the world got to see just how much fun it is for an old pro.