Most of my friends and family know that my favorite player was an unlikely candidate in Aaron Williams. Unlikely because Aaron had a tough start to the NFL and didn’t get much love early on (as he eludes to in his article). I can remember his rookie year, before the season began my family took me up to St. John Fisher college where the Bills hold their annual offseason program. My goal every year was to try and get some autographs from the newly drafted players. I spend a lot of my time scouting and reading up on college prospects so finally having a chance to meet some of them is pretty cool.
It’s mid-august, practice was coming to a close and I was hoping to catch some of the new guys, namely Marcell Dareus and C.J. Spiller who was drafted the year before (2010). As I am patiently waiting among a large group of fans by the railings trying to get a mini-helmet signed by Marcell, I noticed Aaron Williams was signing items and talking to some of the fans a few feet away. I moved my way down hoping to get a chance to have him sign something. Here’s where Aaron stood out, and where I switched my thinking from him just being another guy, to him becoming a favorite player. He didn’t just sign my stuff and move on, Aaron said to me “Hey man how are you doing?” I responded back, “Great man! You looked good out there… How many interceptions you think you’ll pull down this year?” He laughingly said “I don’t know man, how many you want?” very optimistically responding with “Hmm, I’m thinking 8 or 9”. Aaron laughed, saying “I’ll see what I can do! I like the way you think.” It may seem small and insignificant, but it was really cool to have a conversation with a football player. When you’re growing up in Buffalo, you live for the Bills. You look up to these players. So getting a chance to not only meet one, but have a fun conversation really stood out to me. I just loved his positive attitude and willingness to listen to me. From there, I was going to root for him more than anyone.
Aaron had his struggles on the field as a Bill. His first couple seasons were rough. As a second round pick, fans expect a lot from you and Aaron didn’t succeed right away. I kept rooting for him, I knew corner was a tough position to succeed at. He only played in 9 games as a rookie, and 11 the next year. It was not looking good, and his future with Buffalo was in doubt. In 2013, a major switch from cornerback to safety occurred, and Aaron showed out! Aaron mentions in his Tribune article that a lot changed in 2013, he specifically mentions that he was talking to the veteran players more, Fred Jackson in particular. He had his best year yet, getting 82 tackles, a forced fumble and hauling in 4 interceptions. He began to play with swagger too. He was fun to watch. In 2014 the Bills rewarded Williams with a 4 year, 26 million dollar contract.
It’s a shame that the injuries eventually caught up to him. He was a fantastic representative of the Bills. He was coming into his own as a leader, and his work in the community was notable. Fans began to notice, and he quickly became a fan-favorite here. He was always interacting on social media with the fans (and still does!). I’ll always remember Williams as a guy who did not quit. He suffered several neck injuries, one that resulted in a major surgery. He would later return, play back to his form too, only to be blindsided by Jarvis Landry, a hit that would end his playing career at age 27.
I (and I think I can speak for all of Bills Mafia) wish Aaron luck in his life after football. I hope he has a chance to ‘lead the charge’ before a few home games for us, and watch our team hoist the Lombardi trophy someday soon. We will miss having you on Sundays Aaron.