Cincinnati Bengals: 30 greatest players in franchise history

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /
15 of 30
Reggie Williams, Cincinnati Bengals
Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel /Allsport /

Reggie Williams. 16. player. 56. . LB. (1976-89)

  • 1986 Walter Payton Man of the Year
  • 1985 “Whizzer” White NFL Man of the Year Award
  • Cincinnati Bengals 40th Anniversary Team
  • Franchise record for fumble recoveries (23)
  • 62.5 career quarterback sacks (41.0 official), 16 interceptions

Even though he never made it to a Pro Bowl, linebacker Reggie Williams is easily one of the most beloved Bengals of all-time. He was initially drafted in the third round of the 1976 NFL Draft out of Dartmouth. While he made it into Dartmouth on an academic scholarship, Williams still managed to be all-conference playing in the Ivy League.

This ultimately led to Williams earning enshrinement in the College Football Hall of Fame. But many remember him for being in the middle of the Bengals defense for 14 years from 1976 to 1989. Williams was a highly skilled playmaker at right outside linebacker, thriving in bring down ball carriers, driving the opposition quarterback into the turf and picking him off on occasion.

But might have set Williams apart on the field in his football ability was to locate the football and take it the other way for the Bengals on turnovers. He had 16 interceptions and a franchise record 23 recoveries. That’s 39 turnovers he came up with for the Bengals in his 14-year career with the team.

Since sacks did not become an official NFL statistic until 1982, Williams has only 41.0 official. However, his unofficial 62.5 quarterback sacks would have been a franchise record until Carlos Dunlap surpassed him in 2017. If you appear in 206 games over 14 seasons and play at a high level, it should come as no surprise for a defensive player to put up the numbers that Williams did.

But Williams was so much more than that. He was named the 1985 “Whizzer” White NFL Man of the Year and the 1986 Man of the Year, later bearing Walter Payton’s name. During Williams’ final two professional seasons, he began serving on Cincinnati’s City Council, doing so for three years in total.

So it should come as no surprise that a player as beloved as Williams would be named to the Bengals’ 40th Anniversary Team at linebacker. It seems like a clear and obvious choice over a decade later.

What is a bit shocking is just how many knee surgeries Williams has had post-playing career: 24. Yes, he has had 24 knee surgeries and has fought off the notion of having his right leg amputated. Due to so many surgeries, his right leg is nearly three inches short than his left, making getting around all the more difficult.

Though playing professional football took a toll on Williams’ body to say the least, nobody can question how much he meant to the Bengals defenses of the late 1970s and 1980s. He is a fan favorite by the Cincinnati faithful if there ever was one.