In the weeks leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft, Vikings Entertainment Network is sharing draft-day memories from recent years and decades ago. Some might have had more memorable experiences than others, but all have stories to tell.
EAGAN, Minn. — The 2003 NFL Draft had one of the most unique twists in league history, especially from the Vikings point of view.
Minnesota entered the draft with the No. 7 overall pick after going 6-10 the autumn before, but things turn a wacky turn when the Vikings were on the clock in the first round.
ESPN's Kevin Seifert covered the draft for the Star Tribune along with legendary columnist Sid Hartman.
Their reports stated the Vikings were trying to work out a trade with Jacksonville, which held the No. 8 spot, and Baltimore, which was scheduled to pick at No. 10. Both teams were reportedly interested in QB Byron Leftwich.
As the 15-minute allotment for first-round selections was coming to a close, Minnesota believed it had a deal with Baltimore, with the Ravens sending a fourth- and sixth-round pick to the Vikings. 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, and Jacksonville tabbed Leftwich. Carolina then picked tackle Jordan Gross, dropping the Vikings to the ninth pick before officially handing in their card.
It had Kevin Williams' name on it, but the Oklahoma State defensive tackle 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. "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 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."
Williams said he was tending to the coals to cook some ribs, burgers and chicken for those closest to him down in Arkansas.
"We had a bunch of family over, cooking out, just having a good time waiting for my name to be called," Williams said.
And 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.
Williams said he was in a bit of shock in the days following his selection, a quick trip to the Twin Cities for media interviews and some celebrations at home.
Especially since he was going to an organization he didn't know much about.
"[The Vikings] kept it a secret. If I was the guy they wanted, I had no clue," Williams said. "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.
"It was kind of disbelief. I'm always an even-keeled guy … pretty low-key. I'll get excited, but the emotions just don't flow like some guys," Williams added. "I think I was still a bit shocked. It never kicked in until I went up there and did interviews and then got home and hung out with my friends."
The wild scenario worked out for both sides, as Williams made six Pro Bowls in his 11-year career in Purple, helping transform Minnesota's defense into a stout unit.
Williams started 171 games for the Vikings, recording 465 total tackles (according to ProFootballReference.com), and added 60.0 sacks, 104 tackles for loss and five interceptions (two returned for touchdowns) with eight forced fumbles and 13 fumble recoveries two returned for touchdowns).
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 in his time in Minnesota.
And even to this day, Williams still has that Purple pride inside of him.
"Everyone always asks me, 'Who's your team?' It's Minnesota, all the way," Williams said. "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 … I'm forever grateful," Williams added.