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Kevin Williams: From Late Pick To Leader

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The National Football League career of Kevin Williams got off to a bit of a rough start. When the Minnesota Vikings came on the clock with the seventh overall pick of the 2003 NFL Draft, Williams was apparently their guy all along, but they thought they could get a little more value for their selection, so they were rumored to be trading with the Baltimore Ravens, who were selecting at #10. As the clock ticked down to the end of the Vikings' 15-minute time limit, then-Commissioner Paul Tagliabue took to the podium to announce the selection.

The selection of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who jumped ahead of the Vikings to select quarterback Byron Leftwich.

Shortly thereafter, Tagliabue was on his way to the podium again. . .to announce the selection of the Carolina Panthers, who jumped in to take offensive tackle Jordan Gross.

By the time the Vikings finally got their selection in, Williams had gone from the seventh overall pick to the ninth overall pick, and everyone was having a pretty good laugh at Minnesota's expense. In the end, however, it was the Vikings that were laughing.

There were five defensive tackles taken in the first round of that 2003 NFL Draft, including Williams. The two that were taken ahead of him, Dewayne Robertson of the New York Jets and Jonathan Sullivan of the New Orleans Saints, combined for 17.5 sacks in their NFL careers (16 of which can be attributed to Robertson). Williams had more than that in his first two NFL seasons. Williams is the only one of the five that is still in the National Football League at this point in time.

Williams made an impact as soon as he hit the field with the Vikings, racking up 10.5 sacks in his rookie season of 2003, just half a sack behind Keith Millard's Vikings rookie record. He followed that up with 11.5 sacks in 2004, and has been a consistent force in the middle of the Minnesota defense ever since. He, along with fellow big man Pat Williams, made up the famed "Williams Wall" in the middle of the Minnesota defense from 2006 to 2010, and helped the Vikings to put together one of the best rushing defenses in modern NFL history.

Kevin Williams is currently the longest-tenured member of the Minnesota Vikings, having spent all eleven of his NFL seasons in the purple and gold. He set a Minnesota Vikings' record earlier this season with his 158th start at the defensive tackle position, passing the great Alan Page, and also has his name in the record books in several different places. He is currently tied for the most defensive touchdowns in the history of the Minnesota Vikings with four, and is tied for the most interceptions by a defensive tackle in NFL history with five. (Man, wouldn't it be nice for him to get a pick-6 on Sunday and break both of those records?)

And through it all, Williams has been a strong, silent leader on the defensive side of the ball for the Minnesota Vikings. While Pat Williams and (later) Jared Allen are known for their loud and boisterous styles, Williams has been known as one of those "lunch pail" type of players that just shows up every day and does his job a hell of a lot better than everyone else. As one of many Vikings' defensive linemen that have expiring contracts, as well as being the oldest member of the Vikings, there's a very good chance that Williams is playing his final game in Minnesota this Sunday when the Vikings take on the Detroit Lions.

If this is the end of the line for Kevin Williams in Minnesota, I know that I, for one, will miss his contributions to the Vikings. He's been one of the best in the league at his position for a very long time, and while it would be nice for him to play his entire career with the Vikings, it's entirely possible that the front office has other ideas. However things sort themselves out, Kevin Williams has been one of the best and most consistent players of recent Vikings' history.