Jared Allen (right) leads all defensive ends with 107 straight games played, including all 93 in his time with Minnesota. He has 124 career sacks. Minnesota teammate Kevin Williams has 59 career sacks.
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — When Jared Allen arrived in Minnesota in 2008, he was an electric pass rusher coming over in a big pre-draft trade from the Kansas City Chiefs with a league-leading 15.5 sacks. Kevin Williams was the star of the Vikings’ defensive line; already a three-time, first-team All-Pro and one part of the “Williams Wall” with Pat Williams.
Kevin Williams was quick to let Allen know his place and how things worked along the Minnesota defensive line.
“Kevin was like, ‘You might not have those numbers because I’m coming to steal half your sacks,'” Allen recalled last week. “It was instant competition. But you could tell the way he worked just pushed you, pushed me, to be better; that competition amongst the D-line.
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“He’s like ‘We’ll teach you how to play the run over here.’ I’m like, ‘I don’t know where that came from, but I appreciate it.’ Kevin, since Day 1 we hit it off and we just kind of formed that relationship and it’s been there ever since.”
Since the unique welcome, Allen and Williams have been united as the leaders of the Vikings’ defense. For 90 games, Allen and Williams have played right next to each other, continuing on the lineage of standout Minnesota defensive linemen.
“They kind of fed off each other,” coach Leslie Frazier said. “When Jared came, he was a star player. Kevin was already a star here and they kind of put their egos behind them and just focused on trying to help our team. They’re rare in that way, not letting their egos or their status get in the way of trying to help each other be the best they can be.”
Together they’ve combined for five first-team All-Pro honors as teammates and nine total in their careers. And now, the 33-year-old Williams and 31-year-old Allen might be playing their final games together.
Allen and Williams are in the final year of their contracts with the Vikings and a return by one or both is unlikely.
“You’re going to make me get sentimental up here,” the usually quiet and stoic Williams said last week when asked about Allen. “It’s been a tremendous honor to have him come in and join forces with me and Pat at the time and now it’s me and him and Brian Robison and Letroy (Guion) and Fred (Evans). We’re a close group of guys.
“Since I’ve been here and since I’ve been drafted, the defensive line has always been a tight-knit group and it’s continued to be that way. Now that I’m the oldest guy, I try to show the other guys that that’s how we run the group. We’re a close knit group so when we get on the field we’re having fun and it’s like you’re playing with your brothers and your best friends for life.”
Both Allen and Williams used the term “brother” to describe their relationship.
“Kevin is one of those guys I’ll speak with the rest of my life,” Allen said. “We have the same mind. I don’t need to talk to him every day for him to know I care about him … He’s everything I stand for and believe in. We’ve got similar beliefs on and off the field. And its rare, in this league I’ve only made a handful of relationships that I stay in contact after you part ways. He’ll definitely be one of those.”
Allen said he and Williams can’t focus on the future right now. The two have a few games left to enjoy playing with each other and add to their legacies. Both will be considered for the Hall of Fame.
Allen leads all defensive ends with 107 straight games played, including all 93 in his time with Minnesota. He has 124 career sacks, which ranks 14th all-time and is the second-most by an active player. He has 30 forced fumbles and 17 fumble recoveries in his career, and is also tied for the NFL all-time lead with four safeties.
“If you want a guy that’s going to work and push you to your limits, he’s the guy,” Williams said of Allen. “He shows up on Sundays and gives it all he has. He’s the ultimate hustle guy. It’s tough to outhustle him but we make our own little challenges within each other.”
Williams has 59 career sacks playing mostly defensive tackle in his career, to go with eight forced fumbles and 13 fumble recoveries. His five interceptions ties him with Dan Wilkinson for the most among defensive tackles in NFL history.
Just as importantly, Williams has missed only five games in his career, and only three to injury. He has taken pride in always being available and ready come Sunday’s for games, saying he’s played through plantar fasciitis and meniscus injuries in his career. He was named the Vikings’ Ed Block Courage Award winner last week for his durability.
“He’s the consummate pro,” Allen said of Williams. “He’s always where he’s supposed to be when he’s supposed to be, on and off the field. Dude plays through injuries year in and year out. Not a complainer, he just does his job time in and time out and does it at a consistent level. I think that’s the difference. A lot of guys in this league have one good year. He’s been playing at a high level for 11 years. He’s great, in my mind. When I think of great football players, that’s what comes to mind is Kevin Williams.”
Allen and Williams continued a legacy that includes four Vikings’ defensive linemen in the Hall of Fame, and two sets of pairs. Carl Eller and Alan Page were the original duo. Later, Chris Doleman and John Randle played together in Minnesota.
Together, Allen and Williams set the example for the future of the Vikings’ defensive line.
“They’re still two of the best in the game and they’ve helped me in so many ways, more than just football,” defensive end Brian Robison said. “They’re great people outside of football and they help you in every way they possibly can. They’re just good people to be around and great football players to learn from.”
The thought of these being his final days in Minnesota leaves Williams appreciating every moment.
“I mean, coming in as a rookie you’re bright eyed and bushy tailed and you never know what to expect,” Williams said. “It takes three or four years for you to actually realize this is a billion-dollar business. Each team does everything it can to win. It’s nothing personal but it’s all business. You have to soak up all the moments you can. The wins you can get, enjoy the playoff runs, embrace all the people you meet and the friends you make because one day it’s going to eventually be done. Right now we’re just trying to play ball, enjoy the group I’m with and we’ll see where we go at the end of the year.”