Buffalo 'deer' to Williams' heart

JOHN KRYK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:05 PM ET

What sold Mario Williams on Buffalo? A bunch of things. Including this, he said:

“There’s deer in your backyard!”

He wasn’t kidding.

The Buffalo Bills on Thursday signed the superstar free-agent defensive end to a six-year, $100-million contract — but it was the wildlife he saw Wednesday afternoon that really piqued his interest.

And it was at the home of retired Hall of Fame Bills quarterback Jim Kelly.

“Seeing Jim Kelly was definitely a big plus for me,” Williams said. “He did some heavy recruiting and threw in a couple of hunting adventures.”

Yes, hunting. Deer hunting, to be specific. Williams, 27, loves to hunt deer.

It turns out that Kelly had heard that, and used it to the Bills’ advantage.

“Mario and his fiancee (Erin) came over to the house to visit Jo and I yesterday, and spent some time in our house,” Kelly told reporters Thursday, after watching Williams’ news conference from the side.

“I talked to him about hunting, and he was all excited about it. It’s kind of interesting, because I had about nine deer in my backyard yesterday. Me and my wife were sitting there, talking, looking at deer in my backyard. I said, ‘They’ve got to get over here quick, because I know he’s a hunter. Boy, wouldn’t this be great?’

“Two or three hours later, (the deer) are still in the backyard. He comes, and the first thing he says is, ‘Wow, look how big (those deer are)!”

Kelly said he proceeded to sell the couple on all the positives about the Buffalo area. Oh, and how desperately he’s needed on the team.

“We as Buffalonians, we as Bills fans, (know) that he’s what we need. We need somebody to pressure the Mark Sanchezes, the Tom Bradys, the guys we know we’re going to face every year.”

The Kellys even offered their six-bedroom lodge to Williams’ family to use when they come up to the area, if they ever need a place to stay.

“Whatever I could do to make him comfortable, to make him feel — like we all know here — how the city is, how friendly it is and how everybody here breathes football.”

And evidently there are deer everywhere. But is it even legal to shoot deer in your backyard in suburban Buffalo?

“I don’t know,” Williams said. “We’ll deal with that later.”

THE TIME WAS RIGHT

Why this year? Why were the Buffalo Bills suddenly able this year to spend $100 million on a star free agent?

In an interview Thursday after the Mario Williams news conference, Bills CEO Russ Brandon explained.

First, he said it’s never been a matter of not having the money, or the will, to spend. Brandon said owner and president Ralph Wilson has shown a “continued commitment” to provide “the resources to go out and make a play like this.”

The time just had to be right, he said.

Indeed, there wouldn’t have been much point in spending a whack of cash on one player when the team was dreadful everywhere.

Now that the offence is dangerous — with good quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and playmaking wideout Stevie Johnson both under long-term contract — the holes are fewer, and mostly on defence.

“Over the last few years, the mode was to keep building — keep getting better — and then take a shot when you feel that you’re close,” Brandon said. “And we feel that we’re ready to compete.”


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