ST. LOUIS -- The prime of Aeneas Williams' career was spent with the Arizona Cardinals and that is the place where he is most remembered for his many accomplishments. But Williams spent the final four seasons of his career as a member of the St. Louis Rams.
Upon arrival in St. Louis, Williams moved to free safety and hardly missed a beat. Williams was first team All Pro in 2001 and went to the Pro Bowl in 2001 and 2003. Many will remember him as a Cardinal but for fans of the Rams and in St. Louis, Williams' legacy goes far beyond his short stint playing for the Rams.
Williams was one of the most beloved players on the roster during his four seasons in St. Louis and is still revered around the city. The statement from Rams COO Kevin Demoff sent out Saturday night succinctly summed up how Williams is viewed by the Rams and their fans.
“On behalf of the St. Louis Rams, I’d like to congratulate Aeneas on this well-deserved honor," Demoff said. "Aeneas’s four seasons in a Rams uniform capped off his Hall of Fame career, playing a key role in helping the club reach the franchise’s third Super Bowl. While his play alone earned him this honor, Aeneas is also a Hall of Fame person. He remains extremely active in the St. Louis community and the Rams are grateful for the way he continues to contribute to our city and our organization.”
There's little doubt that Williams' work on the field was Hall of Fame worthy. His 55 interceptions, 23 fumble recoveries and 12 defensive touchdowns speak for themselves. We could dig into all of the numbers here but there's no denying that the body of work is Hall of Fame worthy.
What isn't taken into account in Hall of Fame discussions is character and personality. In those terms, Williams seemed to be born a Hall of Famer. I was only able to cover Williams for one year, his final NFL season in 2004, but he remains one of the classiest players I've been around in my decade covering the team.
Much of that final season was injury-plagued and Williams appeared in 13 games in the only season of his 14-year career in which he didn't come up with at least one interception. While his career was winding down, Williams never seemed to let it effect his professional approach. Week after week, Williams would answer any and all questions.
Even with his skills declining, Williams never made excuses and was incredibly influential for young defensive backs such as Travis Fisher and Jerametrius Butler as the Rams made a run to the playoffs, the only one they've had in the past 10 years.
When the season was over, Williams quietly faded into the background, never so much as announcing his retirement. Every time I saw him after that, he looked like he could still play.
That's right, Williams is still easily seen around these parts. He and his wife founded the Spirit Church in town, where Williams serves as pastor. The family is involved in plenty of philanthropic endeavors around the area as well.
Williams also serves as a sort of unofficial mentor for the Rams, a way for him to stay around the game while also working to help young people. Williams has been a consistently positive influence for Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins, for example.
Unlike baseball, the Pro Football Hall of Fame does not have team affiliations on player busts nor require them to declare a team as the one with which he's most closely associated.
If it did, Williams would almost certainly go in as a Cardinal after spending 10 years in Arizona. But that doesn't mean the Rams and St. Louis have any reason to not count him as one of their own.
Williams is an adopted son of St. Louis and Rams fans. Now, the Pro Football Hall of Fame should be proud to do the same.