Shawn Williams has only had a few opportunities to impress at the safety position, but he's made the most of every opportunity. In just four starts last year while filling in for his injured teammates, Williams accumulated two interceptions, five passes defensed, and 22 tackles. Those numbers are pretty good, considering he had only four starts and played a limited role in all other games.
In three years so far with the Bengals, Williams has done enough to convince the team to go ahead and give him a four year contract extension worth up to $21.5 million with incentives. Following the signing, Williams spoke with members of the Bengals media about his contract extension.
"I just feel like it's good to still be apart of something great for years to come," Williams said. It's a sentiment that has been echoed by other players extended by the Bengals this offseason, such as George Iloka and Adam Jones. "That's always been my thinking. It's never been about the money, that's never been the motivation."
Drafted in 2013, this is Williams' first extension and the move is very typical of the Bengals, who tend to try to get their re-signings done the season before a contract is up so as to not have to worry about an impending free agent contract, or losing key players, as happened with Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu this offseason.
So, it's not at all surprising that they would go ahead and re-sign Williams to a fairly substantial contract extension, based on his relatively little playing experience. He's played well enough in the few starting opportunities he's had to earn that kind of investment. And, Williams' teammates have had a big impact on his play so far, which he was sure to acknowledge.
"I've been here for a while. Three years, going into four with George and every year we grow closer and closer together," Williams said. "I'm really looking forward to what we can build upon and see how we can go with it. I know you guys all compare me to Reggie but that's one thing that I will agree on. Reggie didn't really buy too much into talking and neither do I."
Williams learned a lesson while he was at the University of Georgia that when you say the wrong things, sometimes it can come back to bite you.
"It got all misconstrued," Williams said of how saying too much got him in trouble at Georgia. "Some people took it the wrong way and some people took it another way. I was like 'well i'm just done.'"
There was also one particular other player who Williams noted as having a big influence on his career. That player is former Bengals player, and now Vikings CB, Terence Newman. When asked about who he called after signing the contract extension, he noted that he hadn't made many calls about the incident yet, but did make one to his friend and former teammate.
"I haven't even called anyone yet. I kinda like kept it under wraps and like in my close group. I know everyone in that close group we kinda had that same mindset, " Williams said, "I will tell you one person that I did call when it first happened was Terence Newman, because he's been the guy whose been that guy to me throughout that whole process."
It just goes to show how much influence a veteran like Newman can have on young, developing players. "I'm very happy to still have him to call, even though he's not here," Williams said of Newman. "He's still here for me, even outside of the locker room. "
Having a player like Newman take you under your wing is the kind of thing that can really help a talented but quiet players like Williams succeed. Even after his big contract signing, he noted that he plans to continue to keep his head down and focus on football, without paying too much attention to the distractions of being a 25-year-old multi-millionaire.
"Continue to be yourself and always work hard and put forth the best effort that you can and everything else will take care of itself. No added pressure needed." Williams said of the lessons he's learned from his veteran teammates. "Just go out there and do what you love doing and everything else will fall in place."