NOTE: These all-time draft posts are re-posts from previous years. Since there hasn't been many changes over the years, our top-10 lists are relatively the same.
When Joe Montana spiked the football after a touchdown during a regular season game, former Bengals linebacker Reggie Williams was angry, remembering that in the days leading up to Super Bowl XVI:
"I can't speak for everyone, but I can recall vividly seeing Joe Montana spike the football in the end zone," Williams said. "I don't mind a quarterback being happy that he scored a touchdown. But when he spikes a football in the our face, so to speak, I'm going to to remember that," Williams said. "I think I've been working on spiking quarterbacks this week."
As a kid who went from having a perceived learning disability -- which simply turned out to be an issue with his hearing -- to graduating from Dartmouth, Williams is one of the classic examples of a legendary player who was celebrated as an all-around great person. While fighting against opposing offenses, Williams was taking on much deeper causes at the same time.
Largely credited for his inspiring and courageous work to help end apartheid in South Africa, Williams won the NFL Man of the Year award in 1986 and the Sports Illustrated's Co-Sportsman of the Year in 1987.
As a Cincinnati city councilman, he was a key figure in getting the city to divest the stock in its pension fund from all companies that did business in South Africa -- which Archbishop Desmond Tutu praised as crucial in the fight against apartheid.
While sitting on the council helping to end apartheid, he was spiking quarterbacks every week. Do they make players like this anymore?
Obviously his post-career struggles have been documented, waging a battle to save his leg. Infections forced him to receive multiple knee surgeries in 2008 with a planned third knee replacement delayed until the infection was killed. Williams has had many knee surgeries since the end of his career, nine of which have come since April 2008.
Lying in his hospital bed, Reggie Williams watched a flow of blood, four or five inches high, coming from his postsurgical knee.
"A fountain!" Williams called it.
"I can’t believe I am going to go out like this," Williams thought to himself on May 2, when the knee began to spout. Days later, he recalled, "You’re waiting for the cavalry to come through the door."
As soon as his leg healed, he had his knee replaced. Williams' post-NFL player chronicled the devastating affects the sport of football can have. At 60, Williams had a major health scare in October 2014. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Williams began feeling sick during the morning of Oct. 18 and his blood pressure spiked to 200/110.
So he didn't think much of it when the vomiting and diarrhea kicked in on the morning of Oct. 18 while home in his Thornton Park condo. He then felt pressure in his throat and pain in his stomach. He took a shower. He went on the Internet, trying to self-diagnose. A couple of hours passed by before he decided to call the paramedics in the afternoon.
"It wasn't the worse pain of my life, probably not in the Top 10, but something was wrong," he said.
Per the report, Williams had an aortic dissection, meaning that there was a tear and rupture in his aorta. He had open heart surgery later that evening.
Since retirement, Williams has faced great challenges. With over 20 surgeries on his right knee, several infections and coming close to losing his leg to amputation, Williams, through hard work and internal inspiration, is making significant strides. Six years ago, he wasn't able to walk at all. But, slowly, he began to move around with a crutch.
Now... he wants to run. He plans to. It's one of his goals. And he wants to do it front of everyone, writes Paul Daugherty.
He wants his first run to be at Paul Brown Stadium. He can see it, clearly enough that it has become part of his already enormous self-motivational catalog. It would occur at a Bengals game, just before kickoff, in front of 63,000 witnesses and two teams of his football-playing heirs. It would be the sort of triumphant appearance Williams never had when he retired, 25 years ago, as arguably the best linebacker in Bengals history.
And he was supposed to!
On Oct. 26, 2014 when the Bengals hosted the Baltimore Ravens.
For months, Williams had pointed his compass toward Oct. 26 in Cincinnati.
That was the day the wounded warrior would finally run again before a sellout crowd at Paul Brown Stadium, shaking off the pain of 24 surgeries, three right-knee replacements, another on his left, and multiple knee and bone infections.
He channeled that defiance daily while enlisting his list of contacts to help him along the way. His friends at Disney, where he once worked as head of the Wide World of Sports complex, built him a specialized bicycle. Another friend, former Olympic track coach Brooks Johnson, came up with the idea to build a customized walking shoe.
"Run, Reggie. Run," he kept repeating to himself.
Selected in the third round of the 1976 NFL Draft (out of Dartmouth), Reggie Williams would go on to have one of the more effective careers of anyone to wear a Bengals uniform. He was one of a handful of players who played on both Super Bowl teams and recorded 62.5 quarterback sacks, ranking second in franchise history. He also recovered 23 fumbles, picked off 17 passes, tied for most safeties in a career, played the second-most games by any player (206) in team history and recorded the third-highest consecutive games played (137). Williams, a 14-year player, recorded the fourth-most quarterback sacks (11.0) in a season (1981).