<
>

Bills send off Kyle Williams with first catch and final lap

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- As a rugged Louisianian whose 13-year career with the Buffalo Bills was defined by perseverance and not pomp, retiring Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams had to be nudged to participate Sunday in the pageantry of his final NFL game.

But as the 35-year-old corralled three of his five children after a 42-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins in a side hallway and made a rare appearance at the postgame podium, Williams allowed himself a moment in the spotlight to end his playing days.

"The whole thing has been a little out of my comfort zone," he said. "But I'll look back and enjoy essentially what [Bills coach Sean McDermott] made me do."

Williams broke the news of his retirement to McDermott on Monday and informed his teammates and the public Friday. The five-time Pro Bowler was the Bills' longest-tenured current player by seven seasons and one of only six players in franchise history to play at least 13 seasons with the team.

Bills fans will almost certainly have the opportunity at a later date to honor Williams when he becomes a very likely addition to the team's wall of fame, but Sunday, McDermott wanted to give the team captain a proper send-off.

With Buffalo leading by 25 points with 2 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, McDermott had quarterback Josh Allen kneel twice, on third and fourth downs, allowing his defense to take the field instead of the offense potentially running out the clock. McDermott then called a timeout and removed Williams from the game to a standing ovation from the crowd.

"You don't have those opportunities a lot, to be able to do that," McDermott said. "I know it's more of a basketball type of deal. It was more important to me that we honor Kyle's career than to potentially score another touchdown. We want 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."

Williams endeared himself to Bills through his toughness, effort and attitude -- three qualities he said Sunday he believes he shares with the region where he spent his entire NFL career. A fifth-round pick in 2006, Williams beat the odds to stick in the league and remained in Buffalo through the final 11 seasons of a 17-year playoff drought that ended last year.

The Bills rewarded Williams for his loyalty in last season's finale by giving him his first NFL touchdown, on a 1-yard carry in a 22-16 win in Miami. Williams' first NFL catch came late in the fourth quarter of another season-ending win Sunday over the Dolphins.

Lining up at fullback on a first down from Miami's 40-yard line, Williams initially blocked defensive end Cameron Wake as part of a play-action fake before releasing into the right flat to make the catch.

"Once I saw him break loose into the open, I didn't worry for some reason about Kyle catching it," McDermott said. "I knew he was going to catch it. That's who he is: He's a winner. That's what winners do."

It was a designed goal-line play the Bills had considered running in the red zone earlier in the game, but instead Williams caught the pass with room to run. He was taken down by Dolphins linebacker Mike Hull after a 9-yard gain, but long before a chance at his second career score.

"I'm so thankful that guy showed up [because] 40 yards is a long way when you have a ball in your hands," Williams said. "I've never been more thankful to get tackled in my life."

Several of Williams' former teammates recorded video messages that were played on the scoreboard during stoppages Sunday. Well-wishes on social media included the Bills' divisional adversary, the New England Patriots, tweeting a farewell message Friday that included a video of quarterback Tom Brady seeking out Williams after a game.

Williams was asked before Sunday's game to remain in the tunnel after his teammates were introduced. Later trotting alone onto the field, Williams was surprised by his awaiting family before the national anthem, and was moved to tears.

"I was a wreck during that," he said. "I'm fairly certain that was the first time I've openly boo-hooed inside the cage of a football helmet."

Beside perfecting his already-impressive golf game, retirement will allow Williams to spend more time with his family. On Friday, he lamented watching his children's sports games over FaceTime and spending a total of a year of his 12-year-old daughter's life away at training camp.

With his children in tow after Sunday's victory, Williams made a lap around the wall of New Era Field to greet fans before departing for the locker room. His three sons, each wearing their father's jersey, were nestled inside his stall as Williams took off his uniform for the final time.

"The days are long but the years are short," Williams said. "I blink my eyes and 13 years later, here we are."