Prized defensive end Mario Williams made the Buffalo Bills his first stop as soon as free agency opened, and it turned out to be the only stop he needed. After extending his Tuesday night visit to Wednesday and into Thursday, Williams and the Bills held a press conference today to announce his six-year, $100 million deal to play in Buffalo.
“I am ecstatic,” Williams said. “I am excited and can’t wait for the opportunity to get out there and make things happen.”
Some around the league were surprised that Buffalo was able to land the biggest fish in the free agent pond (at least the biggest fish not named Peyton Manning), but the organization made this a huge priority, and the effort and people made an impression. Williams has the chance to come to Buffalo and get the kind of treatment usually reserved for a franchise quarterback, and potentially provide a big missing piece to get the team to the next level this season.
He got a full court press from the Bills that included coaches and management, former players and even the fans, who did everything from putting his name up on billboards, to writing it in pepperoni on pizzas. “[You don’t appreciate it] until you actually get here, see what is here, what is in front of you and see the fans and everything that this great city has to offer. As far as seeing my name in pizzas that was kind of crazy but it definitely got the message across.”
The fans and the atmosphere in Buffalo made a big impression. “Number one thing I heard is it’s almost like a college atmosphere in the simple fact of this is what people bleed, breathe and live,” Williams said. “That’s what you want and you want a fan base like that. This great city definitely offers that.”
His new teammates and what the Bills are building was definitely a big part of the decision as well. “My whole intention is to come here and work with guys like Kyle [Williams] and [Marcel] Dareus and make this thing happen,” Williams said. “I feel like this is a great opportunity for me, the team and for us to succeed and get better.”
He definitely hit things off quickly with his new teammates as well. “The biggest thing for me is feeling comfortable, not only with my teammates but with the coaches and I can already see the bond here. I look forward to working with them, turning this thing around and making it happen.”
Even former players got into the mix. Former Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, from Buffalo’s four-consecutive Super Bowl runs in the early 1990s, met with Williams and gave him some perspective on living and playing in Buffalo. Kelly and his teammate Bruce Smith, both Hall of Famers, were probably the last Bills to receive this type of greeting. “Seeing Jim Kelly was definitely a big plus for me,” Williams said. “He did some heavy recruiting and threw in a couple of hunting adventures and things like that.”
The hunting stories must have struck a chord as well. When asked about what the biggest influence was besides the money and the team, Williams had a quick response. “That there’s deer in your backyard,” Williams said. “I don’t know how it goes as far as hunting in your backyard but no, honestly, it’s definitely different I can say that.”
Moving from Houston to a smaller community seemed to be another big plus for Williams, despite the weather. “You hear so much about it’s cold, well it’s cold in a lot of places,” Williams said. “You hear so much about there’s really nothing to do, well it’s a family atmosphere here but everything is in reach.”
“Every place has its own thing and I think that’s the biggest thing that sold me.”