Texas football alumni Aaron Williams is a safety for the Buffalo Bills. Drafted in the second round in 2011 as a cornerback, Williams was taken to be the foundation piece in the Bills secondary. Although he has fallen short of those draft expectations, he has become an important piece of the Bills defense in short time. With Jairus Byrd leaving Buffalo via free agency, Williams is going to be the man counted on to replace him in 2014.
Last year, Williams enjoyed a breakout season with the Bills, but before he roamed the middle of the field in Buffalo, he was a star for the Longhorns in Austin.
Aaron Williams was born in San Jose, California, but grew up in Austin. Attending McNeil high school in Austin, he was a 4-star rated recruit in 2008. Pete Carroll offered Williams a chance to return to the state of California and attend USC, but Williams chose to stay in Austin and go to Texas. He appeared in all 13 games as a true freshman at just 18 years old, but started just one time.
Williams was the nickel back for Texas for the 2009 undefeated regular season. Playing mostly in the slot that year, he accrued two sacks to go with three interceptions, showing off the versatility that has become his staple skill in the NFL. As a 20-year old junior, Williams finally broke into Texas’ starting lineup in 2010.
Across 3 seasons in Austin, Williams missed three games, and had to answer for durability concerns as he entered the 2011 NFL draft shy of his 21st birthday. At 6 feet tall, Williams had the benefit of being a longer corner, and he ran 4.55 at the scouting combine. That’s not blazing speed, but it was plenty fast for the position. A lot of speculation followed that Williams would go in the first round of the draft. He did end up slipping out of the first round, but Buffalo selected him with the second selection in the second round to play corner for them.
Aaron Williams struggled greatly his first two seasons in the NFL, and didn’t look anything like the player that the Bills had taken out of Texas. In 2012, Williams rated 96th in yards per passing play (11.6) according to football outsiders’ charting data. That’s better than ‘hole in zone’, but not by much. In 2013, former Bills defensive coordinator and current Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine realized that Williams had his best years at Texas out of the slot, and decided to use Williams as a safety in his system, knowing that the strong safety in his system would have a lot of man to man coverage responsibility.
Williams flourished in 2013, and was rewarded with a lucrative contract extension earlier this month: 4 years, $26 million. He is signed in Buffalo through the 2018 season, and has become a core player in their defense.