Former Buffalo Bills safety Aaron Williams announced his retirement Wednesday, writing a letter for The Players’ Tribune thanking Bills’ fans and former teammates alike. The 2011 second-round pick out of the University of Texas also apologized to the City of Buffalo for his attitude early in his career.
“I came into this league with two things on my mind: money and fame. The way I saw it, I balled out at Texas, so it was a given that I was gonna ball out in the NFL, too. Easy money, right? So when I first came in, I didn’t work very hard. I didn’t watch film. I didn’t study,” Williams said, noting that he expected instant respect upon entering the NFL.
After struggling mightily in his second year, he sought veterans like Fred Jackson, who took the young defensive back under his wing and helped to show him the importance of being a positive role model in the community.
Williams said that his whole outlook changed during that offseason. He met a young fan, who was five years old at the time, and that child told Williams that he wanted to be just like the soon-to-be third-year professional. From that point forward, he said, he wanted to be the best version of himself that he could be.
Williams’ playing career ended on October 23, 2016, when Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry leveled him with a brutal blindside block. To his credit, Williams says that holds no ill-will towards Landry, even saying that he “glorified that kind of hit [him]self growing up.”
That block aggravated a neck injury Williams had suffered one year prior in a game against the New England Patriots. While chasing down wide receiver Julian Edelman, both the receiver and Williams dove at the same time. Edelman made it to the pylon, but Williams also made it to Edelman; the force of the ground plus Edelman’s body caused Williams’ head and neck to whiplash, leading him to be taken off the field in a stretcher.
Williams also suffered a concussion during a training camp collision with wide receiver Dez Lewis. With three major head and neck injuries in a span of fifteen months, it was unlikely that he would ever be able to play again. He did hold out hope that he would be able to return, but due to his injury history, he was not cleared to play after the Landry hit despite great workouts with three teams.
Give the letter a read; it’s definitely worth the few minutes. Best of luck to Aaron in his next chapter, which has yet to be decided.