Sunday is going to be an emotional day. I’m sure about this because, over the last 12 years, Bills Mafia had only one guarantee when going to the stadium or turning on the TV to watch Buffalo’s games. Winning or losing, #95 would be there, playing with heart, a non-stop motor, perfectly personifying what being a Buffalo Bill truly meant. That’s why I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to write to you, Kyle.
I’m a Brazilian Bills fan who never had the chance to watch a Bills game live at Ralph Wilson Stadium or New Era Field. Being just one year younger than you, I had a chance to watch the Super Bowl teams, but being just a little Brazilian kid, I knew nothing about the sport at the time. I suppose the charging Buffalo and Thurman Thomas running around captured my imagination, and so I became a Bills fan.
I grew up as a Bills fan but followed them distantly, thanks to a lot of difficulties keeping in touch with all the news about the team at the time, for obvious reasons. It was just before your first year in Buffalo when I finally was able to follow the team closely and my fandom continued to grow watching #95 being a constant model of excellence, even if the product around him wasn’t always of the same standard.
I’m not here to talk about all of your impressive numbers during your years of service to the franchise and its fans. I’m here to show you how your other-worldly work ethic, character and dedication made an impact, not just on your teammates and coaches, who were lucky to be around you, but to Bills fans, not just in Buffalo, but all around the globe.
Like you, I’m a pro athlete, now entering my 16th year as a soccer goalie here in my country. Being the definition of a “journeyman” through my career, never playing more than three years at the same club, I know how tough it is to be able to survive innumerable coaching and management changes. You did it not just surviving, but in every situation, you became the face of what the new regime demanded from its players. This is incredibly rare and speaks volumes about the person you are.
No matter whether it was a 4-3 or a 3-4, if you needed to play 3-technique or nose tackle, you did it. If you were supposed to be too small or not strong enough for the job, you did it. No matter what, #95 always was there, producing and showing his teammates how to prepare and play the game. No matter the severity of your injuries, you worked hard and always came back better than ever. Even now that you’re 35, you continue to play at a very high level and make your teammates around you better.
Oh, and you did all of this being a 5th-round pick. Even though you had only one playoff appearance, you are a winner, one of the biggest winners in Bills history. You won against the odds and became a true franchise great. No matter the level of commitment or production around you, you were always an example of excellence. If the program around you was always at your level, you would be walking away from the game with at least one ring.
Being able to play my career alongside yours, I always had an example to follow — how to prepare, how to never give up and how to be an honest teammate. The times I had the honor of being a team captain, I always knew how I should carry myself because you set the standard. We know in sports, unfortunately, too many things are fake, but you can’t cheat your teammates around you. The love and the respect they have for you are proof of the type of man you are.
So, Kyle, I just want to say thank you. You talked about being grateful for your teammates in your last talk to the media. We are the ones who are grateful because we were really blessed, as fans, to have someone so special representing us on the field every single week.
You’re retiring as my favorite Bill ever; my best memory as a fan is you hugging your kids and shedding tears after the win in Miami last year. I was happy for the end of the drought but was happier because you were a major part of it. That brought tears to my eyes, and I’m sure it’s going to happen again next Sunday.
I never watched a Bills game in Buffalo, but if I could choose one game, any game in Bills history to be up there, it would be next Sunday’s game. I hope the team has something special prepared and the fanbase can show all our love for you, big fella. Congratulations on an amazing career. Thank you, Kyle Williams.