With admission to the NFL comes acceptance into a figurative brotherhood. There's an intangible bond, a certain understanding amongst the players that's hard to describe or understand from the outside.
But on a Bills team that's been described as more tight-knit than some of the veterans have seen during their time in Buffalo, two players take that connection from intangible to palpable.
That's because Fred Jackson and Aaron Williams don't just consider themselves brothers by trade. They're simply brothers.
"(Former Bills LB) Bryan Scott kind of brought us together," said Jackson. "With Aaron and B. Scott being in the same meeting room, he used to come over and we just kind of clicked. He's my little brother. I beat up on him whenever I want to."
"No he doesn't," Williams fervently interjected, with a telling smirk. "That's a lie. Don't believe that. I'm the strongest, and I'm less pounds."
"See how the little brother acts?" laughed Fred. "That's how a little brother acts. So I pick on him."
Since he was picked by the Bills in the second round of the 2011 Draft, the 23-year old Williams has become an important part of the Jackson family – a younger brother to Fred, 32, and a much older brother to his four kids, all under the age of eight. Jackson says that ability to relate to all ages says something about the warm-hearted, fun-loving character he sees in Williams.
"We're big kids when we're around each other," said Jackson. "That's why my kids like it. I remember we had a big Nerf gun battle in our basement where it was him, me and my wife, Bryan Scott and my kids, and we were all down there. We had little forts built in the basement and we were hiding behind them, shooting each other. I think we did that for six hours. We'd take a break every now and then, but that's the kind of stuff we do and he comes over and does it with us."
As an NFL and Bills veteran with a great reputation, Jackson has many a friend in the locker room. Unlike others, Jackson saw something in Williams from the get-go that told him their football friendship would be strong and their off-the-field friendship would be even stronger.
"He's a great guy," said Jackson. "Anytime you have a guy who's that young and knows he has to work to earn the respect of the guys, it definitely allows you to want to take somebody in like that. That's how he was. He was willing to come in and work and do whatever he could to earn the respect of the veterans here."
"I learn stuff from Fred on- and off-the-field," said Williams. "It's crazy; the thing is that I learn more stuff off-the-field than on-the-field. I think me and Fred, we get away from work and we just talk about life in general. I tell him a lot of secrets that go on in my life, stuff I don't tell my other teammates. He helps me out with relationships or family issues or money issues or anything like that. I always know I can count on him."
Williams goes to Jackson's son's football games, daughters' soccer games, and says it's nothing out of the ordinary when he strolls through the Jackson house on any given day. And if being a part of the Jackson family Halloween costume is any obvious indication of the familial bond, he's done that too.
But as more than just a buddy he can pal around with when practice ends, Jackson makes a point to impart veteran knowledge on the third-year defensive back.
"I'm somebody that's respected in the community because I try and do so much work and I'm teaching him the same thing," said Jackson. "What it takes to get these fans behind you is going out into the community and hanging out with them and letting them know you're a regular guy. I try and get him to do as much of that stuff as possible."
The Bills captain spotted Williams' innate maturity when he joined the team – seeing his full potential as a brother would – and has watched that maturity grow. His success on the field and development in all phases of life is no surprise to Jackson.
"You listen, even when we're out on the practice field, to the way the coaches talk to him," said Jackson. "They talk to him like a guy that's been around for a little while. And he's still growing, still trying to learn, still trying to be the best that he can be, and only mature people can do that."
"He put me under his wing since day one," said Williams. "For me to not only have a special connection with Fred but with his family, I think that's pretty special."
Be sure to watch the video at the top of this story for more on Williams' maturity, improvement on- and off-the-field, and what he uses to stay healthy and escape the stresses that come with being in the NFL.