Percy Harvin is taking the responsibility of being third-year breakout to a different level, one beyond the statistics.
Already viewed as the No. 1 receiving threat with the exodus of Sidney Rice and impressive numbers in his first two seasons, Harvin is taking his third year seriously and wants to prove that he is ready to become an elite receiver.
"It takes time to acclimate yourself to the NFL," Harvin said. "Fortunately for me, I had guys like Brett [Favre] and Sidney and Bernard [Berrian] helping me out. I learned so much from them. They've made me a better player and I'm ready to show what I can do with Donovan [McNabb] coming in."
Along the way, Harvin has gone beyond just being a talented player, but he has become a team leader. Head coach Leslie Frazier said that he was a little surprised that Harvin has transformed from a young newcomer to a team leader.
"I'll tell you there is no way that I would have predicted over the lockout that Percy would have come back taking a leadership role that he has," Frazier said. "From the moment the lockout was lifted and we could contact players, it's been refreshing just talking to him and seeing his attitude about this season."
Harvin said he has felt he needs to "pay it forward" – help the young receivers trying to latch on with the team, just as veteran players with experience and know-how in the game helped his process of being a complete player.
"Everyone in the league has talent," Harvin said. "They're the best players at their positions and those that achieve success are the ones that are willing to do the things needed to get better – watch film, work out in the offseason, keep their bodies in condition. You only get so far with talent. You have to work to be among the best and I want to be one of those players."
Frazier said Harvin has shown leadership in ways that never show up on a stat sheet – being one of the first in the building and offering assistance to players without being asked. When the lockout ended and players came back, the line to get into Winter Park started with Harvin and it has carried over to Mankato.
"The fact that he's leading, he's talking to other players explaining to them what needs to be done, how things are done," Frazier said. "We had our physicals set up last Sunday. The guys had to be in between 8 and noon to get their physicals done, so they had some leeway – could have been 10 o'clock, could have been 11 o'clock for them to get in. Percy was one of the first guys to show around 8:15 that morning – leading. Wow! This is what you get from one of your star players. He's having a very good camp and it's exciting for us to see as a staff him stepping into that leadership role. We need that from him."
When the change occurred with Harvin from being a player to being a leader – a change that doesn't always come with a definition, but you know it when you see it – isn't exactly clear. But Frazier said he's glad to see it and isn't sure himself when the ante got upped.
"I can't put my finger on it," Frazier said. "We all go through a maturation process and that's what is happening with him and we're the beneficiaries. He's a tremendous player, but to see him step up in this way, it will be infectious for the rest of our receivers – the rest of our team – when you have a star player buying in the way he has."
As the Vikings move forward into the second decade of the 21st century, they do so without Favre and without Rice. Harvin said it's his time to pick up the mantle they have left behind and, appropriately, run with it.
"I'm not setting any goals for myself," Harvin said. "My goals are measured in wins. If we can win enough games to win the division and get to the playoffs, I will see this as a successful season. Beyond that, I'm not looking at numbers of catches or touchdowns. Those are important, but only because they help the team win. That's what I'm concerned with."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Harvin focused on leadership, wins, not stats
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