In a state that’s produced Heisman Trophy winners, electric wishbone stars and highlight-reel wide receivers, Kevin Williams’ NFL career has flown under the radar.
Of the 80 players with Oklahoma ties on current NFL training camp rosters — other than future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson — one could argue that Williams might have the best shot at being selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Williams, who will celebrate his 34th birthday in August, will not fly under the radar this season.
After playing 11 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, Williams signed with the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.
When the Seahawks play play four national televised games, plus additional showcase showdowns, analysts like ESPN’s Jon Gruden will rave about the Oklahoma State standout who was a two-star high school recruit out of Fordyce, Ark.
“The atmosphere here is a lot different,” Williams said in a telephone interview with The Oklahoman. “They’re coming off a Super Bowl win. There is so much excitement. Everyone here is itching to play football and try to do it again. It really rubs off on you. We have a chance to do something great.”
In the parity-driven NFL it’s rare for the defending Super Bowl champion to return to the Roman numeral game, much less win back-to-back Lombardi trophies.
Over the past 20 years, only the 1997-98 Broncos and 2003-04 Patriots have won back-to-back Super Bowls.
“This is a great place to play,” said Williams, who was named to the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 2000-09 seasons. “They have a bunch of young guys flying around. It’s infectious. I’ll try to use some of that enthusiasm. These kids keep it fun. I just want to contribute as much as I can to a team that’s already good.”
When searching for a new team, one requirement was to have a playoff-caliber quarterback, a variable sorely missing most of his years in Minnesota.
Russell Wilson, a similar under-the-radar prospect, has compiled a 28-9 record as Seattle’s starter his first two seasons. Wilson doesn’t compile gaudy statistics but complements a punishing running game and elite defense.
“(Wilson) is the type of guy that makes a play when you need it the most in the playoffs,” Williams said. “You can be one of the best quarterbacks in the league during the season, but the key is how you play in the playoffs.
“Sometimes it might come down to something as simple as driving down to set up a field goal that will win the game. All playoff teams have that type of quarterback. (Wilson) has won a Super Bowl.”
Last season, none of Seattle’s defensive linemen played more than 620 snaps. In contrast, Williams, the ninth overall pick in the 2003 draft, played his customary 700 plays.
“I’ve played a lot of plays every year throughout my career, which takes a toll on you,” Williams said. “Playing less will benefit me, especially in the fourth quarter and late in the season. The only thing that would feel kind of strange is if I wasn’t in the starting lineup.”
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