By T. Scott Boatright
Ever since he was a freshman fullback running through tackles and over defenders for Ruston High School, football has always been a primary focus for Kyle Williams, who went on to become a standout player for LSU and then the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.
So his reaction when learning he was going to be part of the 2022 induction class to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame shouldn’t be surprising.
“We were at the fieldhouse game-planning for a game we played earlier this season against Oxford, Mississippi,” Williams, who serves as defensive coordinator for the Ruston High football team, said of learning about the honor. “It was a Sunday, and (LSHOF President/CEO) Ronnie Rantz, who’s a friend because of our LSU ties, shot me a text and I sent one back saying that I was working and would get back with him.
“So I called him back and he said that they had a meeting about all the people that had been nominated, and that even though it was apparently the first year I had been nominated — I don’t know what their timeline criteria is — but he said it took them about six seconds to make the decision and just congratulated me.
“It’s a really cool honor having grown up in Louisiana, and it always being home and that kind of stuff. I told him, “Hey, this is great, but I have to go back to work.’ But the opportunity to be recognized in your home state for what you’ve done sports-wise is obviously a humbling thing.”
After moving to the defensive line for his final three seasons at RHS, Williams was named the Class 5A Louisiana Defensive MVP after recording 78 tackles —17 for losses — along with making seven sacks as a senior Bearcat. He was named to the Baton Rouge Advocate Super Dozen and the New Orleans Times-Picayune Blue Chip Top 15 for Louisiana that year.
Williams then moved on to continue his stellar play at LSU, where he started 33 of 46 games, totaled 176 tackles and 16.5 sacks, and was named a first-team All-American by Rivals.com after his senior season.
A fifth-round selection by the Buffalo Bills in 2006, Williams played 13 seasons in Buffalo in 183 games with 178 starts. His best season was in 2013 when he totaled 68 tackles with 10 1/2 sacks and 22 quarterback hits.
Williams said that during his pro football career, many of his fellow players talked about the number of talented athletes Louisiana produces.
“The number of NFL players that were from Louisiana was talked about,” Williams said. “That’s another part of what makes this such a big honor. Coming out of LSU, which predominantly produces players from in-state, a lot of people even off in places like Buffalo, New York, are familiar with the sporting history of Louisiana in all kinds of different sports, but especially NFL football.”
But for Williams, the biggest thrill he’ll get out of the induction will be officially becoming one of more than 70 LSHOF members with Lincoln Parish out of the organization’s 367 members.
“I haven’t looked at the names and numbers — I need to look up the exact number of guys from Ruston that are in there, because I think there’s a handful of us,” Williams said. “I think that says a lot about our community here. I knew Mr. Chick (legendary Ruston High football coach and LSHOF member Chick Childress) growing up in the Sibley community north of Choudrant.
“Obviously knowing the sporting history of this town and community, that’s my favorite thing about this — having the opportunity to represent home with those people who preceded me, and maybe spurred my career on seeing them play at L.J. “Hoss” Garrett Stadium or maybe somewhere else that got me interested and excited about playing. That’s what makes this honor so special.”
Williams will be joined as a 2022 LSHOF inductee by be fellow LSU athletes Steve Duhon (football and later, professional rodeo), the late Eric Andolsek (football), Claney Duplechin (LSU graduate and longtime Baton Rouge-Episcopal High School track and field/cross country coach), Susan Jackson (three-time national champion gymnast) and Britni Sneed Newman (two-time first-team All-America softball pitcher).
The other three members of the 2022 class are six-time Pro Bowl star, New Orleans Saints’ offensive guard Jahri Evans; the late Tony Robichaux, No. 1 on the wins list for state college baseball coaches and rounding out the class of 2022 is the late Eddie Flynn, who as a Loyola-New Orleans student won the 1932 Olympic welterweight boxing gold medal for the USA, the last gold medal for an American boxer for 20 years.
The Class of 2022 will be enshrined June 25, at the LSHOF’s home in Natchitoches to culminate the 63nd Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction Celebration which will be from June 23-25.
A 40-member Louisiana Sports Writers Association committee selected the 2022 inductees. The panel considered 139 nominees from 26 different sport categories on a 33-page ballot.
Photo: T. Scott Boatright
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