TEMPE, Ariz. -- The third time was the charm.
After two years of being a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, former Arizona Cardinals cornerback Aeneas Williams heard the words Saturday night that he’s been waiting patiently for: He’s officially a Hall of Famer.
And it’s well deserved. Williams wasn't brash or boastful during his 14-year career, the first 10 of which were spent with the Arizona Cardinals. He was diligent and pragmatic in his pursuit to be the best. From the moment that desire settled on him, Williams used the great defensive backs that came ahead of him as mentors, picking their brains and filling his game with pieces of their careers, some of which were Hall of Fame worthy. He spent hours fine-tuning the details of his game, from the fundamentals to the psychological.
The finished product yielded 55 interceptions, 677 tackles, eight forced fumbles and 12 total touchdowns. He was a Pro Bowler eight times, six as a Cardinal. And now he’ll have a bust in the Hall.
Williams’ induction into the Hall of Fame means every player with nine or more interceptions returned for touchdowns who are eligible for enshrinement are in.
And Williams also proved Hall of Famers aren't just products of winning teams. The Cardinals won just 35 percent of their games while he played from 1991-2000. He will be the first drafted Cardinal to be enshrined in Canton, Ohio.
“All of us at the Cardinals are ecstatic for Aeneas Williams, who is a true Hall of Famer in every sense of the word,” Cardinals president Michael Bidwill said. “His play on the field made him one of the NFL’s all-time great players but his integrity and character were just as exceptional. Aeneas, Tracy and their family have been an integral part of the Cardinals' family and I can’t think of a better person to become the first from the team’s Arizona era to be enshrined in Canton.”
Even though Williams doesn't have to enter the Hall with a designated team, if he did, like in baseball, it’d be the Cardinals.
“Arizona gave me the chance,” he said.
During my reporting for a story on Williams’ career, a common theme from the other great defensive backs I spoke with was that Williams let his game do the talking. Another common refrain was that the Hall of Fame will find good players, regardless of where they play. That’s what happened.
Williams was part of an era that spurned the talent of cornerbacks who are in the NFL today. He’s a peer of the likes of Rod Woodson and Deion Sanders, not just on the field but now also in Canton.
The pastor understood his Hall of Fame future was out of his control. He was one of the five modern-day finalists, and he respected the process.
On Saturday night, a few days after turning 46, the process respected him back.