EAGAN, Minn. — Kevin Williams played 13 total seasons in the NFL, including 11 for the Vikings during which he punished opposing quarterbacks, dominated offensive linemen and shut down running backs.
He was essentially ready for anything, and all the work he put in cemented his status as one of the top defensive tackles in franchise history.
He formed half of a famous "wall" and now will be a permanent part of future Vikings game days as the newest member of the Vikings Ring of Honor.
Williams was surprised with the news Wednesday morning at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center by Vikings Owner/President Mark Wilf, Vikings Owner/Chairman Zygi Wilf and Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman.
"You're one of the Legends, and Legends helped build our franchise," Mark Wilf said. "You've been such a great player on and off the field, 11 seasons for the Minnesota Vikings, you always gave it your all. We're so appreciative, and it's really a great honor that we're here to tell you that you're going to be put into the Vikings Ring of Honor."
Williams' surprise reaction featured a touch of his Southern twang.
"Appreciate it. Y'all done tricked me over here," said Williams, who had been flown into town by the team under the guise of participating in a couple of initiatives and attend Wednesday's practice.
"When I became an owner 16 years ago, I was a young owner, and you were a young All-Pro," Zygi Wilf recalled. "You were really the first superstar we had on our team, and the way you handled yourself and dealt with us owners and with your teammates, especially, and your desire to be the best in the game really made me proud to be that young owner.
"Now, I'm an old owner, and you're still looking good," he added before joking, "If you want to try out, the door is open. We have enough room. Do we have enough cap room?"
Williams said he might still have "10 or 12 plays" left.
"We're very proud to have you in the Ring of Honor. You're really the first guy that we became owners to who is in the Ring of Honor. Congratulations to you and your family."
Spielman asked Williams of his immediate feelings on the news.
"My emotions are kind of everywhere. I don't like surprises, really, so I'm kind of at a loss for words, but the Vikings raised me, a young kid from Oklahoma State and Arkansas. I had to grow up. I bleed Purple. I still cheer for these guys every week."
Williams, who wore Purple from 2003-2013, will be the 26th member of the Vikings Ring of Honor. He is the third defensive tackle, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers Alan Page and John Randle.
A six-time Pro Bowler, Williams helped transform Minnesota's defense into a stout unit.
The Vikings defense ranked in the top 10 in yards allowed per game four times from 2006-2010, with Williams making the Pro Bowl after all five of those seasons.
Williams appeared in 171 regular-season games for the Vikings. According to team records, Williams' 685 career tackles are the fifth-most among Minnesota defensive linemen, and his 75.5 tackles for loss rank eighth among all Vikings players.
A playmaker through and through, Williams totaled 60 sacks (tied for ninth-most in team history), five interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), eight forced fumbles and 13 fumble recoveries (two returned for touchdowns).
View some of the best images of Kevin Williams from his days as a Viking.
He still has plenty of love for the Purple.
"Everyone always asks me, 'Who's your team?' It's Minnesota, all the way," Williams told Vikings.com in the spring of 2020. "I had short stops in New Orleans and Seattle, but Minnesota raised me.
"They took a little country boy out of Arkansas and brought him to the big city," Williams added. "I'm forever grateful."
Part of the famed "Williams Wall" with teammate Pat Williams (no relation), Kevin Williams helped the Vikings make four playoff appearances, win two NFC North titles and appear in an NFC title game during his time in Minnesota.
And Williams, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft, was involved in one of the most unique draft-day twists in league history.
Minnesota entered the draft with the No. 7 overall pick and thought highly of Williams. The Vikings thought they'd be able to trade down and still land the former Oklahoma State star.
When on the clock, however, the Vikings were unable to find a trade partner. As the 15-minute allotment for first-round selections was coming to a close, Minnesota believed it had a deal with Baltimore. But former Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome said the line to NFL officials was busy when they tried to phone in and confirm the trade.
Time ran out. Jacksonville, which originally had the No. 8 pick, tabbed quarterback Byron Leftwich at No. 7. Carolina followed by selecting tackle Jordan Gross eighth overall before Minnesota drafted Williams one spot ahead of Baltimore's selection of Terrell Suggs.
Minnesota's card had Williams' name on it, but the Arkansas native was unaware of all of the drama that had just taken place.
"To be honest with you, I didn't even see all that go down. We had family over and were barbecuing," Williams recalled to Vikings.com in 2020. "I think I was tending the grill, but then my brother's girlfriend yelled and started screaming, 'They picked you.' I didn't even get the customary call.
"That kind of happened, but then I got the call from Coach [Mike] Tice that they were taking me at No. 9 and asked how soon I could get there. You know how the story goes … I'm the guy they wanted the whole time," Williams said with a laugh. "It all worked out, and I had a pretty good career, so it looked good for them."
Truth be told, Williams wasn't even expecting his name to be called by any teams picking in the top 10.
Williams had excelled in the pre-draft process and was told by his representation that he was likely to have his name called in the first round, but that it might be a bit of a wait.
"Mainly, [the buzz] was middle of the first round or late in the first round," Williams said. "I had put in my work … had a good combine workout, interviewed well, good workout at my school. Everything went well for me leading up to the draft.
"It was one of those things where you wait and see. I was looking for after [picks] 10 or 12, where I'd probably be picked," Williams added.
Instead, Williams ended up being a top-10 pick and played like one for the entirety of his career with the Vikings.
"[The Vikings] kept it a secret. If I was the guy they wanted, I had no clue," Williams said last year. "I had interviewed with other teams, but they weren't on the radar. I really didn't think they needed a D-tackle. But they picked me, it worked and I appreciated it."