Willie Howard Draft Profile



At the end of the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft, Vikings coach Dennis Green said the Vikings would be getting defensive ends, defensive tackles and cornerbacks in the next rounds. He lived up to his word in the second round by picking a tackle from a school with which Green is very familiar — Stanford.

Willie Howard, a 6-foot-4, 295-pounder, has versatility along the line as well, something Green has said he likes in his defensive linemen. He told Howard on draft day that the Vikings would work him along the line and he could settle in as an under tackle, which might mean he and Chris Hovan would play side-by-side inside without a true nose tackle in some situations. Both are considered to be between a true nose and a true under tackle in the Vikings' system.

Howard had a standout 1999 season at Stanford, but his statistics slipped some in 2000 because he wasn’t in as good of shape, according to some draft publications. A knee injury may have contributed to his decreased statistics last year. He started every game since red-shirting his freshman year.

But Howard was learning under Stanford coach and former Vikings coach Tyrone Willingham, and Howard believes that experience will help accelerate his progress with the Vikings. "I feel like I've already played in coach Green's system," Howard said on draft day. "Coach Willingham runs practice like coach Green does."

The last two years, Howard was named All-Pac10 and won the Morris Trophy as the conference’s top defensive linemen in 1999. He also played in the 2000 Rose Bowl. Over the last three years he averaged 52 tackles.

He was a semifinalist for the Lombardi Trophy, given to the nation's top lineman, in 2000. He was only the fourth defensive lineman in school history to earn All-Pac 10 first-team honors in consecutive years, and two of the other three have strong Vikings connections. Linebacker Kailee Wong, who played some defensive end in college, and Paul Wiggin, who is a part of the Vikings' personnel department, were the last and first to accomplish that at Stanford.

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