Seattle Seahawks tight end Luke Willson considers himself “blessed” to be in two Super Bowls in his first two NFL seasons.
Imagine how Kevin Williams feels.
Williams has been in the league for 12 seasons. Over those dozen years — the first 11 with Minnesota — he’s smashed his head and body into blockers. He’s chased running backs and quarterbacks, had countless fullbacks dive into his knees. He’s been in the league for 198 regular-season and playoff games. He’s missed a grand total of three due to injury.
But he’s never played in a Super Bowl. Until now.
Willson and fellow second-year teammates Christine Michael and Alvin Bailey already may have something of an old-hat feeling leading into Super Bowl 49 Sunday against the New England Patriots. Williams? He has an oh-wow vibe.
He’s been wowed at this since a week before the Seahawks even got to Arizona.
When teammate Jermaine Kearse secured the pass from Russell Wilson that beat Green Bay in overtime to win the NFC championship Jan. 18, Williams ran around CenturyLink Field like one of those champion ghosts he’d been chasing for 12 years to feel like that.
“I couldn’t believe it, man. I couldn’t believe he (Kearse) caught the ball. I was in shock,” Williams, 34, said. “Then I just took off running around the field.
“I was in awe. To win the NFC championship and go to the Super Bowl, that’s been a long time coming for me.”
Williams had been to overtime on the verge of the Super Bowl before, with the Vikings in January 2010. But New Orleans battered Brett Favre and edged Minnesota, 31-28, before Super Bowl 44.
That was one of just four times in 11 years that Williams made the playoffs with the Vikings.
“A lot of guys don’t understand the playoffs. If you’ve been in San Francisco or Seattle, you think it’s an every-year thing,” he said.
He’s stayed wowed this week.
Sunday, thousands of fans lined the streets of SeaTac to send the team off to Arizona.
“I took some shots off my phone, headed to the airport. The crowd turnout was so big I had to take a video of that,” Williams said.
“I’ve gone out to a couple of restaurants (in Phoenix). Met up with Jared Allen (the almost-Seahawks free-agent defensive end who signed with Chicago instead last spring). I’ve been soaking it up, man, enjoying it.”
Wednesday was the Seahawks’ first full practice day of the week at Arizona State University. And Williams was relieved to get back to what he’s waited 12 years to do.
“Ready to get back to work, man, because we are still here for one focus,” he said. “It’s nice to be here. I love the fact that we made it.
“But I want to win.”
Winning it is the reason Williams signed with Seattle on a one-year contract last spring worth $2.1 million — some of the best $2.1 million the Seahawks have spent in free agency in a while.
Williams has been a revelation as the replacement nose tackle for Brandon Mebane, the brick wall Seattle lost for the season to a torn hamstring Nov. 9. Williams had spent his career as a “five-technique” tackle, in the gap between the guard and tackle. Plus, Seattle signed him with the intent he’d be a situational run stopper playing perhaps 30 snaps a game.
After Mebane got hurt, Williams moved over the center as a “three-technique” nose tackle getting every-down reps for the first time. On Nov. 16 in Kansas City, the Chiefs mostly pushed Williams back in the middle while rushing for 190 yards. But since then, he has done what Mebane was doing for 7½ seasons for the Seahawks.
He’s devoured double-teams, keeping blockers off Bobby Wagner so the All-Pro middle linebacker has been free to run as fast as most running backs. The Seahawks have won eight in a row since.
It may be nine and another Seahawks title if Williams handles Patriots rookie center Bryan Stork and recently struggling and injured guard Dan Connolly in the Super Bowl.
Oh, one more twist on Williams’ long road to his first Super Bowl: When Minnesota let Williams become a free agent following last season, he narrowed a wide field of interested teams to two: Seattle — and New England.
He chose the Seahawks because he knew Mebane, plus ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril.
And because of what he’s doing right now.
“That’s what I came for, to have a chance to play in the Super Bowl,” he said, smiling a grin 12 years in the making.
“I can say I made a good decision. I finally made it.”