The Cardinals already had Hall of Famers.
But now, the Arizona Cardinals have one for the first time.
Cornerback Aeneas Williams, drafted by the Cardinals in 1991 – three years after the franchise moved to the desert – and who played the first 10 years of his 14-year career with the Cards, was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday.
Joining Williams in the 2014 class is Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, Seahawks offensive tackle Walter Jones, Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks, Bills wide receiver Andre Reed and veterans committee choices Ray Guy, the Raiders’ punter, and Falcons/Eagles defensive end Claude Humphrey.
“When you’re on team for 10 years, many times you might not have the success some guys have,” Williams told the Arizona Republic. “But being with the Arizona Cardinals 10 years, the one playoff experience, I will never forget the foundation, growing up as a player and learning to play a game at a level of excellence, even when you don’t necessarily have the team success.”
Williams was a third-round pick of the then-Phoenix Cardinals in 1991 out of Southern
The NFL players association named Williams the NFL defensive rookie of the year in 1991, and he was named to the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 1990s. Williams finished his career with 55 interceptions with nine returned for touchdowns.
Williams started 159 of 160 games played with the Cardinals, and his 46 interceptions while in Arizona rank second in franchise history. He collected 629 tackles, two sacks and 10 forced fumbles. He was inducted into the Cardinals’ Ring of Honor in 2008.
“All of us at the Cardinals are ecstatic for Aeneas who is a true Hall of Famer in every sense of the word,” Cardinals president Michael Bidwill said. “His play on the field made him one of the NFL’s all-time great players but his integrity and character were just as exceptional. Aeneas, Tracy and their family have been an integral part of the Cardinals family and I can’t think of a better person to become the first from the team’s Arizona era to be enshrined in Canton.”
The Cardinals traded Williams after the 2000 season to the Rams for a pair of draft picks. Williams went on to start for the Rams in the Super Bowl in the 2001 season.
Williams also had a crucial interception for the Cardinals in their historic playoff win in Dallas in the 1998 season. And in one of the most important wins the franchise had in 2000, Williams tied an NFL record with a 104-yard fumble return for a touchdown in a home upset of the Redskins two days before the public vote that eventually got University of Phoenix Stadium built.
“Aeneas Williams was one of the best corners to play the game if y’all didn’t know!” Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders tweeted.
Williams is the 12th member of the Cardinals in franchise history to be elected to the Hall of Fame. He joins owner Charles Bidwill, coach Jimmy Conzelman, offensive tackle Dan Dierdorf, halfback John “Paddy” Driscoll, defensive back Dick “Night Train” Lane, halfback Ollie Matson, running back Ernie Nevers, tight end Jackie Smith, halfback Charley Trippi, cornerback Roger Wehrli, and safety Larry Wilson.
“Many people don’t know what I dreaded the most was going to the stadium five hours early to sit in the locker room,” Williams said. “Now, to wait for the (Hall of Fame) call, it’s kind of like Batman on the phone.
“Three guys from historically black colleges going into this Hall of Fame class is pretty amazing. My wife and I, when we got the call, tears of joy fell down just thanking God for this opportunity.”