Nick Williams has been a journeyman defensive tackle in this league for most of his career, bouncing around to five different teams now heading into his eighth season.
After appearing in two games in 2018 with the Chicago Bears, Williams got an opportunity to play an expanded role for the first time in his career last season with the Bears. He took full advantage of the opportunity, and put together a breakout season, starting five games and making 42 tackles and the first six sacks of his career.
Williams has had to grind to find traction in his career, and that fact hasn't been lost on him after signing a free-agent deal with the Lions this offseason.
"Last year I hit a stride where I was getting the opportunity and I was capitalizing on it," Williams said in a Zoom call earlier this week. "I'm talking about real opportunity, real snaps, real reps and I was able to perform the way I did.
"I'm going into my eighth season in the NFL and people are like, 'Why haven't we seen this yet until last year?' Well, sometimes you get lost in the shuffle. That's just the NFL. You get lost behind guys. You play behind big-name guys. You don't get the reps, the opportunity, and once it's available to you, you're either going to succeed or you're not. I was given an opportunity last year and I succeeded and I want to continue to succeed."
Williams will be given every opportunity again this season to play a big role inside on Detroit's revamped defensive line. He has the kind of versatility and athleticism that the Lions didn't possess along the defensive line a year ago with Da’Shawn Hand and Mike Daniels injured for a majority of last season.
Detroit is hoping Williams' skill set will go a long way in helping to change that.
"I've seen every face of this league, so I'm never comfortable," Williams said of his breakout 2019 season. "I think once you get comfortable, then you don't have anything to kind of strive for. I'm not the top defensive tackle (in the NFL), but that's something I want to strive for.
"I want to bring good football to the Detroit defensive line, so those are things I want to strive for. I'm never going to find comfort. I feel like you can't find comfort in this league. You always have something to work towards and work for."
View photos as the Detroit Lions practice facility reopened on a limited basis Wednesday, June 10, 2020 in Allen Park, Mich.
Williams, along with fellow free-agent signee Danny Shelton, Hand, other returning vets and some of the rookies, hope to give the Lions more production along the interior of their defensive line than they got a season ago.
Williams is thankful for the opportunity he got in Chicago last season and for making the most of it. He's also expecting it to be a stepping stone for something even greater in Detroit in 2020.
"If you're betting against me, with everything I've been through in the NFL ... if you're betting against me, it's just not right," Williams said.