Despite his disappointment in the Bears' 8-8 record, Nick Williams is proud of his performance this season.
Williams thrived in an increased role on the Bears defensive line. The 29-year-old defensive tackle rewarded the coaching staff's trust in him by having the best season of his career.
"The way it happened, nobody could've wrote a better story," said Williams. "Being on the street in '17 and the Bears giving me a shot in '18, coming back here in '19 and actually being able to contribute to the team and play the way that I did. I just wanted to gain the respect of my teammates and let the organization and the coaches know that they made a good decision in bringing me in."
In the seven years since entering the league, Williams had never been as productive. He made all five of his career starts and all six of his career sacks in 2019. Williams was pressed into a more significant role after injuries forced Akiem Hicks and Bilal Nichols to miss substantial time.
For the first time in his career, Williams played in all 16 games. His previous high was in 2015, when he appeared in 14 games for Kansas City, recording nine tackles, his highest total before this season.
Williams finished the season with 42 total tackles, including five for a loss, which bodes well for his prospects heading into free agency. However, Williams said his preference is to stay put.
"I think I'm gonna have fun in free agency this year," said Williams. "We'll see what happens in the future. Obviously, I want to be back here. I want to be a Bear. I love this organization. They've afforded me a lot of great opportunities. I like this locker room. I like my teammates. We'll see what happens."
Aside from potential financial gain, Williams feels that his play this season sent a message to every team that passed on him before he arrived in Chicago.
"You want to show, especially teams that cut you, that just put you out," said Williams, "you want to show them that they made a mistake. I think I did that this year. I played some good football and did some good things on the football field."
After stops in Pittsburgh, Kansas City and Miami, Williams also wanted to vindicate his own determination to keep playing football.
"I just not only wanted to show those teams," said Williams, "but I wanted to show myself and kinda prove to myself that I was kinda stashed away in Kansas City, and I was playing behind Ndamukong Suh in Miami. I was kinda stashed away, lost in the shuffle, but when I got my opportunity, I made the most of it and played well."
Williams said that the Bears' struggles would only motivate him and his teammates, seeing positive signs in their year-end win against the Minnesota Vikings.
"We fell short," said Williams. "It's the National Football League. A lot of teams fall short each year. Getting that win yesterday, the way that we did, it was hard-fought and just coming back in here, and guys are cleaning out their lockers, but at the end of the day, it's something to build on for next year. We'll be even hungrier next year."