Kyle Williams could hardly contain his emotions as he took to the New Era Field turf for the final time.
He was the last to exit the tunnel. The eyes of over 65,000 screaming Buffalo fans were on Williams as he ran toward the Bills logo at midfield, the crest that the defensive tackle has so proudly worn on the side of his helmet for the past 13 years.
When he picked his head up, Williams saw his family awaiting him at the 35-yard line.
“I get past the goal post and I see my family, and I lost it,” Williams said. “I’m fairly certain that that’s the first time that I’ve openly boo-hooed inside the cage of a football helmet. And it’ll be the last, so first and last happened [Sunday].”
Sharing the field with his wife and children would prove to be the first special moment in an afternoon that was full of emotional experiences for Williams. He was handed extra duty in his farewell game, playing on two offensive snaps in Buffalo’s 42-17 win over the Dolphins. Though he didn’t touch the ball on his first offensive snap, he helped the Bills find the end zone, pushing Josh Allen over the goal line to give Buffalo the early 7-0 lead.
The second snap came in the final moments of his professional career. With less than five minutes remaining in the game, Williams again lined up at the fullback position. He ran a flat across the 40-yard line, and Allen quickly found him for a nine-yard pickup.
Williams was unable to find the end zone on his first career reception, as he was brought down at the 31-yard line. The 35-year-old wasn’t too upset that Miami linebacker Mike Hull was there to make the stop.
“I’m so thankful that guy showed up,” Williams joked. “Forty yards is a long way when you’ve got the ball in your hands. . . I’ve never been more thankful to get tackled in my life.”
The Buffalo faithful erupted as Williams rumbled down the field. Though other targets were open on the play, looking away from Williams was never an option for Josh Allen.
“That was special,” Allen said. “A couple of guys came up to me after the game and said we had a tight end wide open, but you can’t not throw it to Kyle in that situation. So I’m glad I was able to see him first and get him the ball and he was able to run a couple of yards, and throw a nice little stiff arm there.
“I’m sure it was a special moment for him and it was a special moment for me being able to complete that pass to a guy like him and enjoy that moment with him.”
The offensive drive in which Williams reeled in a pass would prove to be the final one of the season for the Bills. They didn’t score on the series, instead opting to run out the clock before turning the ball over on downs. Once the Dolphins took possession, they, too, attempted to run the clock down, handing the ball off to Kalen Ballage with less than two minutes remaining in the game.
Bills coach Sean McDermott didn’t allow time to expire, however. He called a timeout before taking Williams out of the game, allowing Buffalo supporters to shower him with cheers as he trotted to the sideline.
“I just thought you don’t have those opportunities a lot to do that,” McDermott said. “I know it’s more of a basketball type of deal. But to put the defense back out there one more time, it was more important to me that we honor Kyle’s career than it was to potentially score another touchdown. I wanted to do it the right way and the good Lord gave us the opportunity to get him out there and for the fans to recognize him one more time.”
Fans continued to cheer for Williams as the clock expired. Chants of “Thank you Kyle” echoed through Orchard Park.
As he left the field for the final time, Williams took a lap around the stadium with his children by his side, a final goodbye and thank you to the people he’s formed an incomparable connection with over the past 13 years.
“I’ve told countless people this week - great careers aren’t worth having without great men and great people in your life,” Williams said. “That’s not just exclusive to teammates and coaches - that’s the ladies who cried that work in our cafeteria when I talked to them, the people who work around our building in operations, in the stadium, the people I’ve met in the city the last couple of days. It’s all cumulative, it all makes it very special.”
Photos: Kyle Williams' Last Game
Bills longtime defensive tackle, and undeniable fan favorite, Kyle Williams has called it a career after 13 years. Click through to see photos of Williams from his final game in a Bills uniform.