Kyle Williams thought he had experienced close to every emotion before wrapping up his 13th and final NFL season.
Turns out, there was room for one more before the Buffalo Bills defensive tackle entered retirement.
With his team standing at midfield during pregame introductions, Williams was introduced last and got a standing ovation. It was when Williams entered the field that he noticed his wife, Jill, and their five children standing beside his teammates.
Then came the tears.
“I didn’t know that was going to happen,” Williams said. “I get past the goalposts and I see my family and I lost it. I’m fairly certain that that’s the first time I’ve openly boo-hooed inside the cage of a football helmet. And it will be the last, so first and last happened today. Just grateful, grateful for everything.”
That reception, along with an actual 9-yard reception on offense in the fourth quarter — another first — in a dominant season-ending 42-17 win over the Miami Dolphins resulted in the ideal send-off for the 35-year-old player considered the heart and soul of the Bills over the last decade.
“It is special for this team and this city to see how we played and how we wanted to play for him and send him out the way that we did,” said Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who had five touchdowns (three passing, two rushing).
Williams announced his decision to retire on Friday. The former fifth-round pick blossomed to become a dominant presence in Buffalo, earning five trips to the Pro Bowl while becoming a fan favorite thanks to his tireless work ethic.
His final game featured a little of everything.
Williams had one tackle for a loss — stuffing running back Kalen Ballage for a 3-yard loss in the first quarter — as part of a dominant defensive effort that resulted in four sacks and two interceptions.
He was brought onto the field as part of a goal-line package and used as a decoy on Allen’s 1-yard plunge to open the scoring in the opening minutes of the first quarter.
Then, in the closing minutes of the fourth, Williams made his first career reception to raucous applause.
The Bills then took the unusual measure of taking a timeout after a fourth-down kneel with 1:19 remaining so Williams could get a final curtain call from the fans, who chanted “Thank you, Kyle!” in unison.
“You don’t have those opportunities a lot to be able to do that,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said. “I know it’s more of a basketball type of deal, but to be able 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 score potentially another touchdown.
“I wanted to do it the right way.”
Williams capped the day by circling the field to greet and say goodbye to the fans, many of whom wore his No. 95 jersey.
“It was spontaneous,” Williams said. “I was giving some people some fives on the way in and thanking them and it just really got to me — well, I can’t do a 10-yard section and not hit the whole place. So I also made a lap with my kids and they had an opportunity to enjoy it.”
His three sons then followed him into the locker room, where they sat at Williams’ stall sipping Gatorade while waiting for their dad to shower and change.
Williams finishes his career with 48½ sacks in 183 games — the most by a Bills defensive tackle.
And he went out in style for someone who arrived in Buffalo not wanting to seek attention.
Williams was difficult to miss on Sunday.
“Yeah, the whole thing has been a little out of my comfort zone,” Williams said. “It was a great day. My family enjoyed it. My kids enjoyed it. We all get to enjoy it because we won.”
Source: The Associated Press