1 - Shady recounts what he’s learned from Kyle Williams
Though his teammates knew that the day was inevitable, they certainly weren’t looking forward to it.
Defensive tackle Kyle Williams announced his retirement on Friday morning, putting an end to what will go down as a storied career. The five-time Pro Bowler spent his entire 13-year career as a Buffalo Bill, establishing himself as the blue-collar, hard-working face of the organization.
Throughout his historic career, Williams formed a unique connection with not only Buffalo fans, but with his teammates, as well, teaching them invaluable lessons that they’ll carry throughout the rest of their careers. He’s a player that star running back LeSean McCoy gravitated toward upon arriving in Buffalo in 2015... once Shady put a face to the much-heard name.
“I knew he was a good player. When I got here, it’s funny, because I didn’t know what he looked like,” McCoy said. “I saw him on tape, thought he was a heck of a player. I remember seeing him at the Pro Bowl, but it’s hard to really like put the faces together.
“Then when I got here, I was trying to find him, because you always try to find the best players on the team, so it was like him, Jerry [Hughes], at the time Mario [Williams], Marcell [Dareus], they were kind of the marquee guys. I was like, ‘Where’s Kyle at?’ And I saw a guy, short guy, that looked similar. I was like, ‘He looks like a coach.’ And it was Kyle. But no, he’s an excellent leader. He’s what this community is all about, to be a Buffalo Bill.
Williams is a player that McCoy has the utmost respect for, a role model that Shady hopes to one day match in terms of leadership ability.
“One thing I’ve learned from him is that everything he does, he tries to do it elite,” McCoy said. Whether it’s practicing, rehab, on the field, watching tape, he’s always trying to give his teammates keys and clues on how to be better players . . . That’s something I want to leave when I’m gone, that guys will say, ‘Hey, Shady McCoy, he joked around and had a good time, but he also put everything he had into the game.’ That’s something I’ve got from Kyle.”
2 - Why Jerry Hughes has been ‘in awe’ of Kyle
In a league in which roster moves are made on a near-daily basis, rarely are two players able to compete alongside one another for six consecutive seasons. Williams has been able to accomplish this unique feat with defensive end Jerry Hughes, whom the Bills acquired in the 2013 offseason.
The two have formed a bond with each other over the past half-decade, a relationship that Hughes will continue to cherish.
“He’s been a big brother figure for me,” Hughes said. “He’s someone that I kind of watch come into this building, the first one in, last one out, working diligently throughout the week. Just the way he prepares, I’ve been in awe of it. I’ve certainly added the way that he gets ready for a game to my repertoire, so that way I can be more like Kyle.”
Hughes feels as though he’s learned a number of lessons while playing alongside Williams, with in-game intelligence and awareness perhaps being his biggest takeaway.
“Football IQ,” Hughes said. “Just understanding the game, understanding what coordinators do, tendencies, down and distance, the whole overall picture of the game where you’re not just out there reading your guy, it’s seeing the whole picture then processing it, then going out there and moving fast. I think that’s one thing I’ve picked up from him. Once I got here, it was a lot of fun playing with him and just watching our relationship grow.”
3 - How Kyle, Lorenzo have shaped Buffalo’s young leaders
Though Williams has decided to hang up his cleats, he’s not the oldest player on Buffalo’s defense.
That distinction belongs to Lorenzo Alexander, a veteran linebacker whom the Bills signed ahead of the 2016 season. Since arriving in Buffalo, Alexander and Williams have grown close to one another.
“Kyle has been a huge help to me and my family since arriving here back in 2016,” Alexander said. “His wife has done a great job of welcoming my wife in, our families are really close. Then personally, on the field, just seeing things differently, learning football. Being around him, great guy. The loss of him in this locker room, his presence will be missed. Just wish him and his family the best as they transition away from this game.”
A fellow decade-plus veteran, Alexander has aided Williams in shaping Buffalo’s young core, helping him pass on valuable information to the team’s foundational pieces.
“Hopefully I’m here next year to continue that process,” Alexander said. “Kyle has done a great job of paying it forward and help building leaders so that when he’s gone, when I’m gone, there’s not a void in this locker room. That’s the whole key about how we try to run things here.
“The greatest example is what he did with Tremaine [Edmunds] this year. We started the [players only] meeting on Thursdays after practice, and eventually he handed that off to him. . . . That’s what it’s all about. He’s probably been the greatest example here of seeing somebody pay it forward in that fashion.”_
4 – Tremaine Edmunds ready to take leadership role ‘full force on’
Williams left the Bills with a parting gift - he passed his 13-years worth of knowledge and professional experience onto the centerpiece of their defense.
Williams quickly identified Tremaine Edmunds, a 20-year-old middle linebacker whom the Bills selected in the first round of the 2018 draft, as the team’s defensive cornerstone, a building block who will be the face of Buffalo’s defense for years to come. As the season progressed, Williams added more the rookie’s plate, eventually handing him the reins of a players-only defensive meeting.
The proverbial passing of the torch provided Edmunds with extra confidence.
“It meant a lot just to me, it meant that he trusts me,” Edmunds said. “He trusted me to come ask me, and I don’t like to let anybody down. I told him, ‘Yeah, man, we can do it. I can do it.’ Like I said, he’s been a great leader.
“To me, it just means he trusts me. Hopefully a lot of the other guys trust me, as well. I’m ready for it and I’m going to take it full force on.”
5 - Star Lotulelei lobbied for Kyle’s return ‘every day’
Williams’ easy-going and jovial personally makes him an easy person to connect with, someone who players simply love to be around. Although Star Lotulelei was only able to play alongside Williams for one season, the two formed a friendship. The 29-year-old defensive tackle is sad to see him go.
“I’m happy for him and his family, him and Jill and their kids, but it sucks,” Lotulelei said. “It sucks to hear it, but he deserves it. He’s been working his butt off for the last 13 seasons or more. When he decides it’s time, then it’s time, and I’m happy for him.”
Lotulelei said that Williams is a player that he’s been watching since high school, somebody who has shaped the way that he plays the game. Throughout the 2018 season, the veteran attempted to persuade Williams into returning for a farewell tour, a season that would culminate with a playoff appearance.
“[I’ve lobbied] every day of this season,” Lotulelei said. “I’ve felt it coming, and I talked to him every day, just giving him little hints like ‘We’re going to the playoffs next year man, you sure you don’t want to stick around? We’ve got something good here.’ But he's ready, so if he’s ready, I’m happy for him and his wife. I’m happy for him and Jill and the kids. It’s amazing. He’s had a great career.”