David from Phoenix writes: I understand the flash and ego that comes with Deion Sanders, but if you compare him to Aenaes Williams, how is Williams not in the Hall of Fame? Williams was just as "shut-down" as Sanders. Ask Michael Irvin.
Mike Sando: Williams deserves strong consideration independent of any comparison with Sanders. But when you stack up the numbers and exclude Sanders' contributions as a return specialist, Williams holds up across the board.
As I noted when putting Williams on an NFC West all-decade team for the 2000s, "While the Rams' offense earned most of the attention during the 2001 season, Williams was the one largely responsible for helping St. Louis advance to the Super Bowl. He returned two Brett Favre interceptions for touchdowns in the divisional round. He picked off Donovan McNabb late in the NFC title game, preserving a 29-24 victory."
Williams was a clutch, big-play defensive back with tremendous versatility and staying power. He played cornerback and safety at a Pro Bowl level.
As for Williams and Irvin, check out this 1995 Sporting News feature profiling the former NFC East rivals. The piece quotes Irvin on Williams this way: "It's a personal challenge. Aeneas has good speed, good reaction. You try and attack a corner's weakness, but it's hard to find a weakness in Aeneas. He ain't no fool."
The chart, put together with information from Pro Football Reference, compares career stats for Williams and Sanders. They are nearly identical.