BEST VIKINGS PLAYER - 2007
Readers' Choice: Matt Birk
Let us now praise fat men. In pretty much all sports aside from sumo wrestling, the fat guys rarely get their due. We are conditioned to equate athleticism with rippling muscle and lean bodies, but the truth is, sometimes the great athletes don't have six-pack abs—they have pony kegs. In his 10 seasons in the NFL, Viking nose tackle Pat Williams has consistently dominated. Sure, the 6-foot-3, 317-pound Williams has never put up gaudy sack numbers, which to most casual fans is the sole measure of a defensive lineman's effectiveness. But Williams is one of the league's great run stuffers. For long-suffering Vikings fans, outstanding run defense was the only highlight of the 2006 campaign. The team gave up a paltry 2.8 yards a carry—and just 985 yards the whole season. That was the second-lowest total since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. As the man in the middle, Big Pat deserves a lion's share of the credit. He did get a measure of long-delayed recognition at season's end, as he won a spot on the Pro Bowl roster for the first time in his career. And Williams has also proved mighty durable. In his two seasons with the Vikings, he has yet to miss a game.