Versatile tight end on Vikings' radar

The Vikings were doing their homework with a versatile tight end that could fit the bill of what Leslie Frazier and Bill Musgrave are looking for. The player and coach talked about the qualities that would seem to make it a good fit.

Both ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and NFL Network's Mike Mayock agree on one thing: This draft is especially weak at tight end.

That doesn't appear to be stopping the Vikings from looking hard at one of the draft's top prospects at the position, Arkansas' D.J. Williams. The Vikings interviewed all but one prospects at the Senior Bowl, and Williams isn't believed to be the player that didn't comply with their request for an interview. Then, according to the National Football Post, the Vikings interviewed Williams again at the NFL Scouting Combine.

There could be good reason for the continued interest. Head coach Leslie Frazier has indicated a couple of times this offseason that the team could be looking for some versatility in their tight ends and Williams brings both a willingness to block and a niftiness in his pass-catching ability.

"What (the Falcons) did with the tight ends and moving them, putting them into the backfield, is similar to what we used here and what we're capable of doing with Jim Kleinsasser and even (Visanthe) Shiancoe at times," Frazier said at the Senior Bowl while talking about new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave's philosophies in the running game.

Frazier mentioned that possibility again at the Combine, but if the Vikings did double-dip on their D.J. Williams interviews in January and February it might also have been to delve further into his background.

Williams was abused as a child by his biological father, who also abused his mother and two sisters. His father is serving concurrent sentences of 25 and 27 years in Texas for, among other things, attempted murder.

"My background was pretty much like sandpaper. It was really rough. But after that sandpaper wore out, my family came out smooth. I've learned a lot from it," Williams said at the Combine. "Pretty much I'm almost thankful for what we went through because now I appreciate pretty much all I get in life. I'm very thankful for what my mother did for me, and almost every time I get to that breaking point, all I have to do is think of her and I keep going."

Now Williams is looking to make something positive out of his undesirable situation growing up. He wants to help kids that are in a similar situation and has an appreciation for how his mother survived to raise three children.

"That situation is very tough, and I can only imagine how hard it was for my mother. And that's something that I want to help out with too, and that is the mothers in this situation," Williams said.

"I was a college kid struggling to pay my water bill on time, and she was a single mother who moved away with nothing, raising three kids and starting from scratch. And it blows my mind how she's brought me and my sisters to where we are now."

Williams went strong throughout his college career and is now considered a potential second-day draft value. He caught 147 passes for 1,817 yards, thanks in part to an impressive sophomore year when he had 61 catches for 723 yards and three touchdowns as a first-team All-SEC performer, but Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino didn't see a complete player yet.

Williams' pass-catching production fell the next two years (42 catches for 411 yards in 2009 and 54-627 last year), but he started concentrating on his blocking. He still won the Mackey Award as the nation's best tight end.

"I got caught up in my sophomore year at Arkansas in catching 60-plus balls a season and I got real excited, and really didn't excel in blocking. And Coach Petrino didn't like that one bit," Williams said. "And so I worked real hard going into my junior year in becoming a better blocker. And my senior year I kind of put two and two together and became a complete tight end. Hats off to Coach Petrino; he gave me the right mindset and mentality to become not just a pass-catching tight end, but a run blocker as well."

Williams said his attitude about blocking is on the right path now and he wouldn't shy away from Ray Lewis if that was his blocking assignment. Normally, Kleinsasser is the Vikings' big blocking tight end, but eventually the 12-year veteran will call it a career, and the team appears interested in finding a young talent with versatility for the future.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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