HENDERSON, Nev. — Trent Williams’ accomplishments are already worthy of a Hall of Fame career with 11 Pro Bowl bids, three first-team All-Pro selections and near universal recognition as the best left tackle of his generation.
All that was missing for the San Francisco 49ers star was something he never envisioned would be possible as he spent the first decade of his career mired in the dysfunction and ineptitude in Washington — the opportunity to play in the Super Bowl.
“This is the pinnacle,” Williams said about playing the Kansas City Chiefs for a championship on Sunday.
“You work to get here. It’s incredibly disheartening when you don’t feel like you have a chance to be here. For the first 10 years of my career, this seemed like it would be out of reach. The way these last four years went for me, I’m super grateful.”
Williams career has been revitalized since he arrived in San Francisco in 2020, after sitting out the previous season in Washington. He was at odds with the organization when he refused to play because he said he distrusted the medical staff and front office because of a botched cancer diagnosis.
The Niners acquired Williams from Washington during the 2020 draft for a fifth-round pick and future third-rounder — a small price to pay for such a valuable player.
Williams shook off some rust his first year with the Niners before taking his game to even new heights starting in 2021 after signing a six-year, $138.1 million contract in free agency after nearly leaving for Kansas City.
“He’s a different human being. He’s a different player,” general manager John Lynch said. “I don’t like talking about Hall of Fame-type stuff with players. But he’s a guy I’m not shy doing that about because he’ll be there and he should be there first ballot. Nothing would help to cement that more than a win in this game.”
Williams has made a strong case for the Hall. He was picked as a first-team All-Pro the past three seasons, when he has allowed just two sacks on 1,663 pass-blocking snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.
He also is the key to San Francisco’s running game with the Niners averaging 5.9 yards per carry when they run to the left side.
“He might be the best player I’ve ever seen,” All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey said. “When he’s out there, he gives everybody a little boost of confidence.”
Williams’ strong play as the anchor to the line has allowed the Niners to dedicate more resources to other spots, with the other four projected starters for the Super Bowl accounting for about $9 million on the salary cap.
The respect Williams has from his teammates carries over to the locker room, where Williams has two lockers — one with his name and No. 71 and the other with nickname “Silverback” and No. 71. Someone even added a rope around the area to give Williams some extra privacy.
Williams said the offensive line fined him when he first got the extra locker but everyone knows he’s worthy of it.
“We just kind of walk by and like, yeah, this is just kind of Trent’s little mall he has here,” All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner said. “His own little area. He’s already got a gold jacket to his name. So I’m pretty sure he can do whatever he wants and guys will not say anything about it.”
They just want to make sure the 35-year-old Williams is around for a long time. Williams knows he’s far closer to the end of his career than the beginning, but he’s not quite ready to hang it up and retire.
He has three years left on his contract and the Niners are hoping he can finish this deal as the anchor to the team’s offensive line.
“I don’t even like to speculate on it,” Williams said. “I’m not even worried about the expiration date at this point. I’ve been so blessed to this point to be 14 years in and still playing at a high level. The last thing I’m worrying about is how many I got left. I think I’m gonna approach it every year the same. And when I’m not the same, I know I can hang it up.”
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