When Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams announced his retirement on Friday morning, you knew Friday’s press conference were going to be a little different. Both Williams and head coach Sean McDermott addressed the announcement.
Here is the full transcript:
Bills DT Kyle Williams
Q: What does this all mean to you, just to reach this decision and know it’s going to reach its finality on Sunday?
A: I don’t know, it’s surreal. I don’t think any feelings have really reached bottom yet. It was something that I would’ve preferred to leave out the back door like I came in. I’ve been very quiet and came in and out, but luckily, we’ve got some good people here that convinced me that this needed to be out. People needed to know. It’ll be a fun experience. I’m excited about it, obviously. I don’t know that a place has ever meant more to anybody. I’m excited for the weekend.
Q: Kyle, this is also about 13 years of pushing yourself as any player does through the whole experience. It’s not just a football season, it’s the off-season and camp and the whole works. You’ve done this and then finally having to ask yourself, I’m sure, at the end of every year [of] do I want to do it again? How did that factor into your thinking at this point?
A: Well, honestly a couple of things. I’ve watched way too many t-ball and soccer games over FaceTime, this spring more than ever. I think at the end of the day, it came down to the things that I say are most important to me, are they really the most important things or do I just say that because that’s what everybody else says? I told everybody that’s asked me about it to this point [that] I don’t know if there’s ever a good time, whether it’s now or whether it’s two years from now, it’s going to hurt walking away. There’s going to be a void in my life because of how much this game, obviously this organization, and this team has meant to me in general. Those were all things that I’m going to have to work through and process. It’s never easy.
Q: Other than playing a playoff game at the end of the year, how special is it that you get to play your last game at home?
A: That was an important part of it. I love the fact that Sunday, I’ll know, you know what I mean? I’ll know. I can go out there, I can enjoy it for what it is: an opportunity to go back out, play in front of what myself and a lot of other people regard as the best fans in the league. [It’s] an opportunity to compete with my team and hopefully go and get a win. Those are the most important things to me, so I’m excited about that.
Q: Kyle, can you reflect back to 2006 and you were this so called too short, too small, arms were too short and whatever? When you reflect back and now to this point, what have you proven, maybe to yourself, or to the people that doubted you so long ago?
A: I think the hardest thing for me is moving away from something that I love so much and walking away from something that they said that I couldn’t do. Something that’s, like I said, is a big piece of me: the competition, this game. As far as what it means, for me as a player, the only thing that I ever wanted to accomplish was I wanted an opportunity to compete and be the best that I could. Moving forward, the only thing that I hope is, whether it’s present day teams, past teams or future teams, that our fans, our organization, our people would say that, “you know a good guy to have on this team would be Kyle.” If that’s the case on any of those points, then I can rest easy.
Q: Kyle, we know you told Sean [McDermott] on Monday, but can you take us through the timeline for you to make this decision?
A: Well, obviously when it creeps into your mind and you think about it and give way to those thoughts and your quiet time and you’re by yourself, it’s a real thing. For me, like I said, this spring when I’m up here, I’m in training camp, and I’m watching my kids play t-ball and all these activities, I’m doing it on FaceTime because I’m away. I was telling somebody earlier that my daughter, I have kids in middle school, and my daughter is moving in to be 12 years old and I’ve been in training camp for a year of her life, and that’s just training camp. I think this spring it hit me really heavy, but at the same time, I totally committed myself to being the best teammate, the best player, try to make the Buffalo Bills the best team that I could this year. When I get back into it, I love it so much. I love team, I love competing, and at the end of day, it comes down to, like I said earlier, what are the most important things? What do you want to do? I wish I could be 22 years old and start all over again, but that’s just not how the cookie crumbles so to speak.
Q: Kyle, so many head coaches, GMs, position coaches, even two owners. How have you been able to survive amongst all of the change here over 13 years?
A: A couple of things on that front. Obviously, we’ve had limited success. We had a lot of people in and out of here. The positive of that is that I got to build so many great relationships with lots of people all across this country and all across this league. As far as myself, I think the main thing was that I never cheated anybody a day. Whether it’s our fans, our owners, my teammates, I literally gave all I had every day, whether it’s practice, games, no matter what. I gave it literally all that I could. Like I said, I’m comfortable knowing that and moving forward here.
Q: Kyle, when you think back to a year ago in Miami, you celebrate a playoff berth, your first and only one, with your children there at your side. How special was that moment?
A: It was awesome. Those boys, they had a great time. To be able to play on the field with them and enjoy that moment with them in the locker room. I’m hopeful that they’ll remember that. They were pretty young, I hope they’ll remember that forever because their dad won’t forget. That was such an awesome moment. I think it was just kind of meant to be. You don’t go on the road to an away game and be allowed to take children or people out of the stands onto the field with you. As luck would have it, a security guard allowed me to do it, so I think it was just something that was meant to be. Like I said, there’s photos and video and a lot of things that commit that to memory that my family is going to hold tight to and near and dear for a long, long time.
Q: Would your career have been complete without that playoff berth?
A: Luckily, I don’t have to think about that. Obviously, that moment in that locker room, you talk to anybody that was there. We’ve had guys who have been on great teams, Super Bowl teams, on National Championship teams, myself included, and this spring we did a poll of ‘What has been your favorite football moment?’ To a man, anybody that was in that room, it was that moment. It was that few minutes there with that team. It was a blessing to be there; it was a lot of fun. I only wish one of my daughters could’ve been there because I catch all kind of flack for that. They got left out of the locker room.
Q: I know this will be your last game here with the Bills, but you’re a first alternate for the Pro Bowl. There have been a couple of injuries, would you play in the Pro Bowl if asked to fill in?
A: Yeah, I think so. The opportunity to go represent the organization one more time, I’d definitely jump at that.
Q: What’s next as far as goals you have? Maybe staying in football, coaching, broadcasting, something like that?
A: Yeah, there are a lot of opportunities out there. A lot of things have been thrown at me, really, over the course of the last couple of years because of speculation of this day that was coming. There’s a lot of things out there, a lot of things to process, a lot of things that I, in the short term, want to accomplish. We’ll kind of see what the future holds. Obviously, we’ve talked to Sean, talked to a lot of different people about some different things we may or may not be able to do, but that’s all kind of on hold for the moment. We’re going to go out and try to win on Sunday and then we’ll kind of work through that as we go forward.
Q: Kyle, any part of this decision challenging [knowing] that you could still keep playing, Sean said you could still keep playing and understanding the level that you’re playing at?
A: I think one of my biggest fears has always been that if I came back just to come back and play a year and if I weren’t able to hold up my end of the bargain. I’ve set a standard for myself and the way that I want to compete, how productive I want to be. If I were out there dragging around and not productive and obviously being an anchor to our team, I don’t know that emotionally and in my mind I could handle that. Obviously, feeling healthy, feeling good, still able to play at a high level is maybe a cherry on top. With clarity and all those things going on, it’s a good feeling knowing that I didn’t let myself slip or let my teammates down as I walk away.
Q: What did your wife and kids say as you told them about your decision?
A: There’s been a lot of tears at my house over the last few weeks between my wife and I. We told our kids on Christmas and my boys are young and they love football. More than anything, they associate football with coming into this indoor [facility] and playing. They’re a little bummed out about that. My oldest daughter is a little bit like me, she’s going to kind of stuff the information and then eventually it’s going to come out of her. My second-oldest daughter had a screaming fit for two hours at my house on Christmas. Sean jokes around that I ruined his Christmas Eve, and I say you should’ve been to my house on Christmas day. Obviously, we came here, 22 years old, freshly married, no kids and we walk away on the doorstep of 36 [years old] with five [kids]. Our family has grown up here; our kids, this is all they know. This is all we know. We both have never lived outside of Louisiana, so we’ve lived in Louisiana and in Buffalo. That’s something to be proud of.
Q: What made you want to stay in Buffalo throughout the years with all the opportunities to leave?
A: The city here, if you commit yourself to it, you commit yourself to the community, there’s such a different vibe. There’s such a different feeling. We’ve had guys come in and out of this organization, obviously, tons for my years here. Guys that you would identify that have been in what you would call the best organizations in the NFL. These guys either didn’t want to come here because of what they had heard or maybe people make a funny face when you say ‘Buffalo.’ They didn’t want to be drafted here, they didn’t want to come here in free agency, they had no other choice, whatever the things may be. When it was time for leaving, nobody wanted to leave. There’s something about it that gets inside of you and takes hold if you commit yourself to it and you let it in. Obviously, our fans, the people, so many relationships and really, the last couple of years, Brandon Beane, our team and a lot of people around them, more notably so, Sean McDermott.
Q: Kyle, you’re like a Mr. Miyagi to Harrison’s [Phillips] karate kid. Talk a little bit about his progression.
A: I don’t know him. [Note: he was laying on the sarcasm pretty thick.] The only thing I know for sure is that Harry’s not allowed to wear [number] 95 next year. It’s got to have at least a year off and then I think I reserve the right to sell it to Harrison when the time is right. During the season, it’s so hard to properly kind of bring somebody along. You do your best. You’re trying to prepare, you’re trying to do the right things. I’m excited for him. I think he’s going to be a great player, because more than anything else, he cares. He wants to be good, he prepares because he wants to play well. Sadly enough, that’s not always the case in this league. Guys that have grit and are tough and want to be good, those guys have got a chance. I can’t wait to watch him play. I’m excited for him.
Q: Kyle, what can you tell fans about where you think this organization is headed in 2019 and beyond?
A: So that’s the hard thing for me. You get Brandon and Sean in here and you’ve been through ups and downs and staffs, different people that have come in and out. You get an opportunity to kind of pull the curtain back and sit with two guys that are transparent with you and share their vision with you. I’ve never had a checklist with things that I wanted the coach or the GM to say to make me come back and continue to play. When they share a vision and it literally clicks with everything that you want, the kind of teammates that you want, the kind of organization you want to be a part of. That is what makes it tough moving away. I feel like the direction we’re moving, the young guys that we have, you mentioned Harrison earlier, Taron [Johnson] and Robert [Foster], and Tremaine [Edmunds]. There’s so many great, young players that we have. Josh [Allen] [too]. You want to hold on, but like I said, it’s never going to be easy whether it’s this year or next year or the one after that. Just know that I’m always going to be a Buffalo Bill. The main thing for those guys is that they’ve got all of my support.
Q: Hey, Kyle, thank you. Thank you for everything.
A: I want to thank you guys, too. You guys have always treated me very fairly and hopefully I represented myself, this organization, the Pegula family and my family the right way and treated you guys with respect. I appreciate what you do and thank you.
Head coach Sean McDermott
Q: Can you talk about Kyle [Williams] announcing his retirement?
A: Yeah, he’s a class act. It’s unusual to find a player that can stay at one organization though his entire career. I think it really fits Kyle. As I’ve gotten to know him, I first was introduced to him at the Pro Bowl, I believe, in 2014 and I’ve had a front-row seat the last couple of years to watch him, watch his habits, what he’s been able to do inside the building, what he’s been able to do outside the building. He’s a guy that personifies what we want to be all about as Buffalo Bills. He really bleeds red, white and blue.
Q: Sean, how much has he meant to you specifically as still fairly new to the head coaching ranks in the NFL? You’re maybe leaning on him in some ways. It’s one thing to lead and guide teammates, but has he meant that to you too as a coach?
A: Yeah, you’ve heard me say it before about player driven leadership. That is important, that’s highly important that players can connect my message to the locker room and he’s done a great job of that. We need more Kyle Williamses, though they’re hard to find. They only come around probably once in a lifetime. He’s been a special player, he’s been a special person. I know he’s served this community for a number of years, he and his family both. It’s been fun to watch. He gave me a little bit of a Christmas present and I told him it was the worst Christmas present a man could get on Monday. That’s when he first shared it with me. We shared some moments and I’m extremely proud of him and can’t wait to watch him this weekend.
Q: Sean, was there anything in your conversations with over the past year that you had any inkling that this was the direction he was going?
A: I shared with Kyle in our conversation on Monday, I told him, I watch and I try to look for signs of which direction he was going to go. I’ll lead off by saying that I respect Kyle more for doing what he’s doing because of the reason that he’s doing it, and that’s his family. He knows that we’re heading in the right direction and Kyle can still play. That’s a hard decision to make, but putting his family first really to me is befitting of a man like Kyle. You see players hang on and continue to get their identity from this game and he’s more than that. He’s bigger than that.
Q: It’s unique to play your entire career in one city. What about how unique it is to work with other guys you know will eventually kind of take your spot, a lot of guys don’t do that. They can be kind of a bit standoffish and don’t really pass the torch at all.
A: That’s one of the signs that I’ve seen from Kyle and Jill [Williams] this year of our players having a unique opportunity in Western New York and in Buffalo in particular. It’s unlike any other NFL city I’ve been to. They gather, right, because of the uniqueness and intimacy of our community. Kyle has had multiple players, young players in particular, over to his house with their significant others to shepherd them, share life, NFL experiences and then also begin to pass the torch. From a leader standpoint, I think that’s been interesting to watch.
Q: How big of a hole is there now to fill, both on the field and in that locker room?
A: Yeah, we’ll miss Kyle. You can’t replace a guy like Kyle. They come around once in a career just for all the reasons you and I both know. What we’ll take from Kyle is all of the great things and we’ll embed them in what we do. It’s been a great opportunity for our young players to watch. We meet every Friday, first and second year players in a leadership-type development meeting and I’ve encouraged our young players to watch our older players because before you know it, they’ll be gone. What greater lesson from a leadership standpoint than when it’s led by example. Kyle has done that for a number of years here.
Q: How much has he shown you he can still play? He’s second among linemen in snaps, he’s got five sacks. How much has he shown you [he can play]?
A: Yeah, he can still play. That’s why, as I was asked earlier, I think that it makes it that much harder of a decision, I would imagine, for Kyle. I respect him even more because of the fact that he can still play and he’s decided to spend more time with his family.
Q: What do you expect it to be like on Sunday when he takes the field?
A: Oh, man. Emotional. I think it’ll be great for the fans. When I think back about the signs that I’ve seen this year and then we had the families come in when we play away for the Saturday practice, so I’ve been able to watch Kyle with his kids, watch them run around. To watch Jill film and film Kyle, it was one of the signs I saw the other day [thinking] could this be it and they’re trying to capture those special moments? It’ll be a full hour or longer day full of special moments and moments that I’ll personally never forget. Moments that I think will be fun to be apart of and kind of landmark opportunities for us to be a part of and just take part in as Kyle has his day.
Q: Do you think any of those moments will be similar to what we saw in Miami last year?
A: Could be. This is the great part about our game, this is the great part about our team. These guys, they’re vulnerable, they put their heart out there. When you’ve got a guy like Kyle that plays that way and a family that supports this organization and like I mentioned before, really gets, really embodies what Buffalo is all about, it could be special Sunday. I want it for the fans. To end it at home, I think, is fitting for Kyle as well as opposed to ending it on the road somewhere. I know there’s a number of teams, obviously, that goes on the road at the end of the season. To be able to retire and play his last game in front of the home fans I think will be special.
Q: Back in 2016 right after you were hired, Kyle was considering retirement. He credits you for kind of changing his mind. What did you say to him?
A: It was really, you guys know Kyle and hopefully you’ve gotten to know me as well. It was really just what I believe in type conversation of 20 minutes, he was at his hunting cabin. I had called him and he didn’t call me back. It kind of irked me a little bit. He didn’t have good reception, so a day or two later he got back to me and apologized for the delay, but he doesn’t get good reception. We had a 15, 20 minute conversation and I just really laid out to Kyle what my vision is for this football team, this organization. I think we saw eye-to-eye on that and so that’s what also makes it hard. He’s a guy that I feel equally yoked with in terms of when you try and establish a winning culture, when you’re around and try to establish an environment of high achievers that the habits that come with that, you don’t see those every day. He’s a guy that has that.
Q: You reflect back to that iconic picture of your team making the playoffs and Kyle and Eric [Wood] shirtless. How nice was it for at least, well both, but for Kyle to make playoffs?
A: I reflect back on that moment in the locker room in Miami a year ago and you always go back and do a self-assessment. I made it at that moment a moment about, as I addressed our team, the first thing I said was how proud and thankful I am for the Williams family and that they can experience this. You go back through and say, hey, was that the right decision because there’s a ton of other people involved in that? You go back and you say, hey, that was the right thing to say because of moments like this weekend. When you watch him, probably the biggest thing that I’ll remember about Kyle is you go into the training room, I’m in there at seven o’clock at night. Coming downstairs, there’s not many players left, he’s one of the guys, he’s one of those guys that is always in there. He’s either in the cold tub, in the hot tub, getting treatment, seven o’clock at night when he could be home with his family. He’s a true pro and a true Buffalo Bill.
Q: Was there any campaigning on your part on Monday during that conversation to get him to change his mind?
A: [laughs] There was some. I respect, like I said, just his decision so much that if I tried to change his decision, I wouldn’t feel good about it as a human being. I know what he’s established, I know what he’s ready to go do in a lot of ways. His house is built and ready to go for him down in Louisiana as well. I imagine and I would hope that he would stay involved. We discussed some of that a little bit. Nothing’s been, it’s too early for anything to be formalized at this point. We’d love, I’d love to have him around as we continue to grow and move forward.
Q: Who has to step into this leadership void now?
A: I don’t know if anybody steps in to his shoes exactly, but certainly Lorenzo [Alexander] and then that’s why, as I mentioned in the meeting that we have with some of these younger first and second year players, it’s developing leaders because naturally, Kyle and Lorenzo and all these guys are not going to be around forever. I’ve been through this before and it’s our job to bring in, as we acquire players, the right types of players that have that DNA and we’re able to develop it with our resources and our human capital that we have here. We invest in those players so that it’s always churning in terms of who can take over those leadership positions. We need more of those players that you’ve seen on our roster. We’ve got a young football team and quite honestly, most of the leadership has been on the defense. We need more of that on the other sides of the ball.
Q: On the same way we talk about Josh [Allen] learning from Matt [Barkley] and DA [Derek Anderson], have you seen guys like Tremaine [Edmunds] and Matt Milano kind of watching and observing and becoming more of a leader and finding their voice from what Kyle has done?
A: I have. I have. The biggest challenge there in lies the youth of, ‘hey, coach, I’m trying to do my job and then I have to go over here and lead.” It’s hard to do both. The older those players get, the more they will be able to move, as they mature and their job starts to slow down for them, they’ll be able to move into those roles because they’ve experienced things. They’ll be able to say, “I’ve been through this before, here’s how we need to handle this as a group of players.”
Q: Sean, so much was made when Harrison Phillips was drafted about the comparisons to Kyle Williams. Now that you’ve had a year with him, from a production standpoint, do you see him being able to fill the void that Kyle will leave from a production standpoint?
A: Yeah, we’ll see. From a habit standpoint, I would say yes. Just watching Harrison and his habits and the way he approaches his job, the way he’s a connector of people, much like Kyle is. I would say he’s off to a start that he has a chance.