ORLANDO, Fla. — This one’s for the kids, especially Kyle Williams’ young sons.
Harrison Reed and Gray Williams have been having a blast since arriving here earlier this week for their father’s appearance in Sunday’s Pro Bowl. They get to ride on the bus to and from practice with the AFC all-star squad. They get to run around in children’s-sized versions of Dad’s jersey on the opposite end of the field while Williams is practicing with Patrick Mahomes and the rest of his teammates. That’s on top of the Disney and Universal theme-park visits with their father, mother and the Williams’ youngest son and two daughters.
This Pro Bowl Week, the sixth of Kyle’s 13 seasons as a defensive tackle for the Buffalo Bills, has been the most special of all because it’s his last and he wants it to be memorable. That’s where the boys come in.
“I've been to a handful and this one, to really say, ‘Hey, you know what? This is the end, so let's fully incorporate them into it, into the practices, into everything that I can, as long as the league and the coaches are willing to let me,’ ” Williams told The Buffalo News Thursday. “Really, just letting them soak it up. Just try to have a great week for them and send them out on a high note and, hopefully, remember my career and my time in Buffalo as just a sweet and special time where they had a great time.”
Now, Williams is getting to add a nice postscript to a career that made him one of the most popular Bills in franchise history. After announcing his retirement before the Bills’ regular-season finale against the Miami Dolphins, he was able to say a grand goodbye to the fans by taking a victory lap around New Era Field.
Williams doesn’t anticipate being the least bit melancholy about playing in what will be his final NFL game Sunday. For one thing, it is, at best, a quasi-league contest with the competitive level less than preseason speed. For another, although he will be wearing a Bills helmet, he won’t be wearing a Bills uniform and none of his Buffalo teammates will be on the field with him.
Williams had his share of finality during the Bills’ Dec. 30 victory against the Dolphins.
“I really don't think there’ll be the emotion and the heartstrings pulled like there was that Sunday in Orchard Park,” he said. “This is more of a happy time, kind of a fun deal, to go out and enjoy it and laugh and smile and have a good time. Obviously, the last Sunday in Orchard Park was so emotional and just kind of a mixed emotion of things.
“I was really, really happy, but at the same time, you're leaving something that's not just the game but a place that's so special to you. I think all of that remains where it should, right there in Orchard Park and in our memories, and this week is just all about fun and going and having a good time.”
The following is what Williams had to say about other topics:
On whether he has had second thoughts about his decision to retire. “I would have never gone to Sean (McDermott) and to the Pegulas and Brandon Beane if there would have been a shred of doubt or anything like that. It was something that was a definite decision, a final decision. There were obviously doubts and sleepless nights and a lot of things leading to that decision. But afterwards, total peace. Happy with where I was, where my family was and where I am in Buffalo and what it meant to me and to us.”
On how he feels physically. “I was feeling really good until (Wednesday) when they made me do that sled push in that skills challenge. They roped me into that deal. I almost died over there. I played a lot of football and have been in a lot of two-minute drills. I've never been that tired in my whole life as the last five yards pushing that sled with Jim (Kelly, an honorary captain and coach for the AFC squad) on it. But walking away, I feel great and was still playing well.
“A lot of people have asked me the question, 'Does that make it harder? Does that make it tougher? You're still playing at a really high level, your body feels good.' And for me, honestly, I look at it that it's more a cherry on top than it is a deterrent of doing it. For me, I'm so happy to walk away knowing that I always held up my end of the bargain. My teammates could always count on me and I wasn't there just trying to drag it out and get a paycheck. For me, mentally, I never would have been able to handle knowing I was a detriment to our team.”
On a future role with the Bills, something he discussed with McDermott. “No, nothing yet, nothing yet. We're kind of letting the dust settle. We'll flesh that out as we move forward. Obviously, it's a place that's close to me and we'll see what my value would be moving forward. It was very casual talking about somehow being involved in whatever it may be in a lot of different facets, so that's really as far as we've gone to talk about it yet. We've got plenty of time. I'll actually be up there in a couple of weeks doing some stuff with my house and meeting with some people. So moving forward, maybe we'll advance it, kind of figure out what we want to do.”
On what kind of Bills team he’s leaving behind. “I think I'm leaving at a time where they're definitely going upward. And I don't think that that has anything to do with me, but it has more to do with Terry (Pegula) and Sean and Brandon and the kind of guys they're bringing in and the culture that they're promoting, they're building. I think, for me, hopefully in the future and you'll get an opportunity to talk with some of those guys, and hopefully I'll pour it into their careers, hopefully I'll pour it into their mindset, their work ethic and their habits. Hopefully, that'll reflect on me. But as far as the team that they're building there and the way I think they're moving up has more to do with those three that I mentioned than it does with me.”
On having Jim Kelly be a part of Williams’ final Pro Bowl. “We’ve spent so much time together over the years and to get this week together, our families and just hang out, it's so much fun. We're so like-minded about team and the outdoors, and there's so many things over the years that we've talked about and shared pictures, and different things like that. Everybody's always asked me what I want my legacy to be … and I've always told people that whether it's the teams that I've been on in the present, past teams or future teams coming up, if our organization and the people in our region can say, ‘You know, a good guy to have on this team would have been Kyle,’ I'd be totally happy with that. That's the only thing that I would want, legacy-wise.”