View some of the best images of Kevin Williams from his days as a Viking.
Kevin Williams, the man with more starts by a defensive tackle than anyone in Vikings history, is approaching the finish line.
Williams signed a one-day contract with Minnesota on Wednesday and will formally retire as a Viking on Thursday, the team announced.
A first-round pick (the ninth overall selection) in 2003, Williams played 11 seasons and started all 171 games he played for Minnesota, missing just five regular-season contests along the way.
Williams said during a phone interview that it means a lot to retire as a Viking after playing 2014 with Seattle and 2015 with New Orleans.
"That's what you want to do when you come into this league," Williams said. "I didn't want to be all over the place. I had short stints in a couple of places, but to have that many years in Minnesota is awesome. I think I tried to accomplish and play and be the guy that they drafted in 2003. I think it went pretty well there. I enjoyed it and had an awesome time."
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman, who joined Minnesota in 2006, thanked Williams for his contributions to the team.
"Kevin was one of the most respected players in Vikings history by his teammates and by opponents," Spielman said. "He set a high standard for himself and led by example instead of words. We thank him for everything he gave the Vikings and the legacy he leaves."
Vikings Owner/Chairman Zygi Wilf said Williams left a legacy and will be "a Viking for the ages."
"Kevin Williams was an established team leader when we bought the Vikings and his presence was crucial to our success," Wilf said. "His consistency and durability makes him a Viking for the ages. We wish Kevin and his family all the best as they enjoy retirement."
Williams was selected to six Pro Bowls (2004, 2006-10), tied with Hall of Famer John Randle for second-most in franchise history by a defensive tackle behind Hall of Famer Alan Page (nine). He was named First-Team All-Pro by the Associated Press five times (2004, 2006-09).
Williams tied an NFL record with five interceptions by a defensive tackle and is tied for tops in Vikings history with four defensive return touchdowns (two interceptions, two fumble recoveries).
A member of the 50 Greatest Vikings, Williams ranks eighth in team history with 60 sacks. He totaled 63 in his career (203 total games with 193 starts). Page made 157 starts for the Vikings, and Randle made 150.
"It had to be the grace of God," Williams said when asked about his durability. "Some guys are blessed to play without a lot of injuries, and I was blessed to be one of those guys. I just showed up, it's time to go to work, and I wanted to make sure I was there. What better way to lead the guys than to show up to work and work hard, put your hard hat on."
Part of the work accomplished by Williams resulted in teamwork with fellow defensive tackle Pat Williams on "The Williams Wall" from 2005-10. Minnesota went from 19th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed to leading the league three consecutive seasons (2006-08), ranking second in 2009 and ninth in 2010.
"On top of having a friend for life, I think Pat Williams is probably the best thing that happened for my career," Kevin Williams said. "To come in and get a veteran guy that has played and a brother on and off the field. We were great for each other, us competing and pushing each other every day in practice, every Sunday in the games; it was tremendous, the height we reached.
"We went out and recruited Jared [Allen in 2008 in there, and he came and made us stronger and got a lot of great things done and kind of set a standard on defense around there."
Williams said he's kept up with the rise of the Vikings defense, particularly last season when Minnesota went 11-5 and won the NFC North. He's also followed construction of U.S. Bank Stadium, which had its grand opening Friday.
"I've definitely been following it on social media and checking out the website," Williams said. "I'm just excited. I'm a little jealous, but I'm excited as well. It's finally here."