Kevin Williams was the picture of cool on a football field. The way he'd chase down a quarterback for a sack, then chomp on his gum waiting for the next play.
The guy known affectionately as "Big Ticket" by teammates shared a personal tidbit Wednesday.
"I threw up every game," he said.
Williams expects to be flooded with emotions again Sunday when he becomes the 26th member inducted into the Vikings Ring of Honor.
Forgive him if his halftime speech is brief; he's still overwhelmed by the whole thing, and he's the antithesis of a self-promoter.
"When you look at the 25 other people that are up there," he said, "those are some bad guys."
Bad, as in legendary. Williams was a bad dude himself at defensive tackle.
Five All-Pro selections. Six Pro Bowls. A spot on the NFL's 2000s all-decade team. And consistent, starting every game he played in a Vikings uniform – 177 counting playoffs — over 11 seasons.
I visited Williams at his Arkansas home in the summer of 2010. We met on Sunday morning after his family returned from church. Williams sat down at his dining room table, and the first words out of his mouth conveyed his unassuming nature.
"Why would you want to come all the way here to talk to me?" he asked.
Because, I told him, I knew he was a great player but knew nothing about him as a person. The trip was worth it: Williams showed me his property, which included a pool house outfitted with disco lights and a karaoke machine. His karaoke preferences were Elvis and Boyz II Men.
His house also had a weight room. Williams admitted he didn't use the free weights, only the cardio equipment. He wasn't trying to become a hulking bodybuilder at that stage of his career.
Williams shared a few other revelations in our phone conversation Wednesday: He never used a mouth guard, and he vomited on the sidelines before games.
Mouth guards made him gag, especially after he got his tonsils removed. So he chewed gum instead during games.
That reminded him of the other thing, which he offered unprompted.
"I tried to blame it on my tonsils, but in the grand scheme of things, I bet it was just anxiety and being ready to go," he said. "Everybody would just sit back and be like, 'Ah, he's ready now.'"
It became such a part of his gameday routine that support staff would put towels on the ground near the bench for him. It always happened between the national anthem and kickoff. Williams tried taking medicine and not eating breakfast, but nothing prevented it.
"I became superstitious," he said. "It's gross to talk about it."
Hey, it obviously didn't affect his performance on the field.
Speaking of superstition, Jared Allen stole French fries off Williams' plate during the team dinner the night before every game.
"He knew I would always sit the plate down and go back and get something else," Williams said. "He would get in my fries, even though I was only trying to eat a couple anyways."
Allen said he loved that ritual and so many things about Williams. Allen always referred to his defensive linemate as "Ticket," a shortened version of his nickname. The respect Williams commanded in a locker room filled with stars and alpha personalities was evident.
"I wore it like a badge," he said. "I knew I wasn't a vocal leader. I always look at leading as doing things the right way. You can say a bunch of words, but I'm about action."
Coaches and teammates likened his rare speeches to "E.F. Hutton moments": When he talked, everybody listened.
Even then, Williams usually didn't shout. He talked in his soft, soothing southern drawl. But he had the room's full attention because he was the Big Ticket.
"You're like, I've got to shut my mouth and open my ears because I've got to hear what this guy is going to say," former linebacker Ben Leber said.
He imparts words of wisdom to high school kids now as a volunteer assistant coach in Little Rock. Williams enjoys coaching but is noncommittal beyond volunteering.
"I don't know I want to teach a class and all that," he joked.
He will join 25 other Vikings legends eternally on Sunday, including Hall of Famer John Randle, who wore No. 93 before Williams.
Williams picked that number as a rookie unaware of its history. He soon learned that he chose Randle's number. He set a goal right then.
"If I could be half as good as he was," Williams said, "I think I would be all right."
He did more than all right.