Lewis: Veteran Kevin Williams takes historic blocked extra point in stride _lowres

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Kevin Williams (93) gets a hand on a pass by Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) during the fourth quarter Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Carolina won 41-38.

Kevin Williams is old enough to have played for Les Miles — at Oklahoma State.

He’s a five-time All-Pro defensive tackle, been voted to Minnesota’s 50 Greatest Vikings team plus the All-NFL team of the 2000s.

Canton may call one day.

A year ago, he was one play away from earning his first Super Bowl ring.

So, when he helped make history in Sunday’s game against Carolina, Williams, now in his 13th season but his first with the Saints, took it in stride.

Williams’ block of an extra point attempt was returned by teammate Stephon Anthony for the league’s first defensive two points.

Although they turned out to be the only points the Saints scored during a 27-point run by the Panthers, which led to their eventual 41-38 victory against the Saints, it was a play to remember.

“I didn’t know it was history or anything until I got home,” Williams said. “We’d been close to blocking a few of those, and I finally got my hands on one.

“But I told everybody to act like you’ve done that before.”

Or maybe not.

“He was pretty pumped up,” said rookie Tyeler Davison, whose locker is adjacent to Williams’. “I don’t know how many times he’s done that before, but you could tell how much pride he had in it.

“Some guys take off on field goal block, but Kevin never does. He goes for it every time, and he finally got one.”

Actually, it was Williams’ fifth blocked kick, including a field goal try by the Saints in 2008 that was returned for the first such touchdown in Vikings history.

But that Williams would take routine special teams duty so seriously — and that his younger teammates would take notice — exemplifies a major part of the reason the Saints signed him after Seattle, where he played last year after 11 years with the Vikings, couldn’t come to terms with him.

He was one of seven players with at least five years experience brought it to add maturity on and off the field.

And now, on a team with many more young players than anyone could have expected, Williams serves as a role model of professionalism.

Maybe it’s not by accident that Williams occupies the same locker and wears the same number (93) as ex-Saint Junior Galette, whose time with the team ended precisely because of his lack of the same.

“You’d be amazed by how much he knows and how much you learn from just watching him,” rookie Kaleb Eulls said. “The best thing he does is simplify things for you.

“You get all jumbled up after a meeting, and he puts it in words you can understand.”

That’s the idea.

“I like helping bringing these young guys along,” Williams said. “Some of them need to hear common man language after the coaches give it to them first so they can see things better.

“And they all need to know that when the coach gets on your butt to not take it so personal.”

If that sounds like Williams sees a future for himself in coaching, it is. He’s already calling himself “an extended coach.”

First, though, Williams wants to help get his team through the remainder of the season.

And that’s by being than a sideline presence.

Against the Panthers, Williams had his best game of the season — five pressures plus a hit on Cam Newton as he released the ball which should have resulted in an interception.

But, like so many things this season — the interception didn’t happen, and the Saints lost their fourth straight game to be basically eliminated from the playoff chase.

“We can’t seem to put a complete game together and eliminate our mistakes,” Williams said. “We can’t have games where we keep blowing our assignments and things like that.

“This is a big-boy league.”

And, for those who might feel like there’s no point in going all-out any more, Williams has another message:

“You can slop around if you want to,” he said. “But if you have any pride about yourself, you’ll come in ready to work and keep working hard every Sunday.

“There are a lot of jobs at stake and somebody’s watching you. Never fold the tent.”

Williams’ attitude has drawn Sean Payton’s admiration.

“I feel fortunate as a head coach to get to know him,” the Saints coach said. “Kevin Williams is an amazing man.

“There’s a steady calmness about him, and he’s clearly the leader in the meeting room. He’s not only been a great player, but he’s someone they trust.”

But, Williams will admit, his days of greatness on the field are behind him.

He’s unsure about even trying to come back next year. There are benefits, he’s found, to spending time at home with his wife and four children.

And with the Saints in rebuilding mode, there’s no certainty they will want him back.

“I’ll always be grateful for another chance to play football for a team that wanted me here,” Williams said. “The season hasn’t gone the way anybody wanted to go, and you especially hate hearing things about how bad the defense is.

“After the season, my wife and I will evaluate what we think is best for me to do and go on from there. But if I do have to call it quits, it’s been a great 13 years.”