A washed-up basketball player flexed his muscles after sacking another NFL quarterback. Nick Williams, again, contributed to a dominating defensive effort.
Heck, for the first time in Williams’ five-plus years as a pro football player, he started a game on Sunday.
If the Bears defensive lineman is living the dream, it’s because the other one he had got sacked.
“I thought I was going to be 6-8 and be the next LeBron,” a smiling, yet humble, Williams said inside the Bears locker room after they beat the Minnesota Vikings 16-6 at Soldier Field. “I stopped growing and my dad said, ‘Hey, you need to go out for the football team.’ ”
So his senior year at Minor High in Adamsville, Ala., Williams went out for football and made the squad.
“I guess I was pretty good,” he said.
Drafted in the seventh round by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2013 after a collegiate career at Samford, Williams has also had stops in Miami and Kansas City. He didn’t play in a single game in 2017, then signed with the Bears last year and appeared in a couple of games.
Then came Sunday. Already with 2 sacks this season (the first 2 of his NFL career), the 6-foot-4, 310-pound Williams notched a pair of sacks and even showed LeBron ball skills by recovering a fumble.
His last such game?
“Never,” Williams said. “Probably in the preseason. Preseason 2015.”
The Bears needed backups to step up their games against NFC North rival Minnesota. Down starters Akiem Hicks (knee), Roquan Smith (personal reasons) and Bilal Nichols (hand), Williams, Nick Kwiatkoski (8 solo tackles, sack, forced fumble) and Roy Robertson-Harris (1 sacks) helped the Bears come within two minutes and 58 seconds of posting their first shutout since 2010.
“It shows our preparation each week, and it shows the depth of our defense,” said Kwiatkoski, who filled in for Smith at inside linebacker. “Each guy on this defense comes in prepared.”
Kwiatkoski found out only hours before game-time that he would be starting. A fourth-year pro, he wasn’t fazed.
“It’s one of those things where you just adapt to it,” Kwiatkoski said. “It doesn’t change your mind set. You just go with it. You have to.”
Williams has been around too. He’s learned how to be ready for opportunities, even if they don’t come around often.
“We knew Akiem was going to be a game-time decision,” Williams said. “I prepared throughout the week to put my best football on the field.”
Vikings running back Dalvin Cook came into the game having rushed for 375 yards and averaging 6.6 per carry in his team’s first three games. The Bears’ banged-up defense held him to 35 yards rushing on 14 attempts. Minnesota had only 40 total net rushing yards.
“It’s fun to be a part of this defense,” Kwiatkoski said. “I can go on and on. But at the end of the day, we’re a close group and we have fun each and every day.”
Williams, who called himself a “reserve guy,” trails only Khalil Mack (4) for the team lead in sacks.
He’ll keep living the dream — his new one — and doing what he says he’s coached to do.
“I think it goes back to this organization, how they put together this team at the beginning of the season,” Williams said. “We got guys that can really step up. We got starters that are playing reserve spots.”
Backups also mattered on offense for the Bears, who lost quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (left shoulder) in the first quarter and were also down wide receiver Taylor Gabriel and guard Kyle Long to injuries.
“It just goes to show the type of culture that we have,” coach Matt Nagy said after his Bears won their third game in a row to improve to 3-1. “It’s as simple as that. There was no concern in regard to, ‘Now what?’ ”
Williams will attest, it’s just on to your next plan.