Top Pick Making Slow, Steady Progress

Troy Williamson's first week in Vikingland was filled with questions about his selection and an inconsistent showing in his opening practices in purple. Since then, however, he has shown improvement and seems to be making progress toward a more important role.

Troy Williamson's first weeks as an NFL player haven't exactly been welcoming.

First, he had to put up with myriad writers and fans questioning why the Vikings would draft him when a more productive college wide receiver was available on April 23. Then Williamson had to deal with the nerves of being an NFL rookie in his first practice settings. The speedy wide receiver has endured his first month as a professional for the Vikings without running away from the situation with his 4.3 speed. For his efforts, he has shown more consistency in practices and flashes of why the Vikings would consider his potential more appealing than Williams' college accomplishments.

Surprising, Williamson told Viking Update he hadn't heard much about the comparisons Minnesotans were making between himself and Williams.

"I ain't really heard too much about it," he said on minicamp weekend. "I came to the Vikings and can't nobody do too much about it right now. We're two different types of people. You can tell the difference between my speed and his size. You pick whatever piece of player you want. Mike's a good guy and a great player, so you can't really compare that type of stuff."

They are two very different players, and the Vikings already felt they had some of Williams' qualities on the team with Nate Burleson and Marcus Robinson. But they lost a whole of a field-stretching ability when Randy Moss was shuffled off to Oakland in March.

The Vikings are counting on Williamson's speed to eventually make up for the Moss loss.

For now, however, Williamson is starting at the bottom. Through three days of minicamp and fours days of development camp last week, Williamson saw very few plays with the first-team offense. It wasn't much different than his first days at South Carolina.

He said he worked his way from the bottom of the depth chart at South Carolina into the starting role he commanded at the end of his college career. "I plan on doing the same thing here," he said, "where I work and earn the starting position."

The biggest surprise for him was the competition level. "In college, you have a couple of guys ready to compete. Up here, everybody's ready to compete against each other because everybody wants to beat everybody out. That's a good thing."

His speed continues to be his biggest asset, but as the camps have developed, Williamson began to display more than just speed. He showed off some of his other skills. "My hands and my keenness for knowing different coverages" are other strong tools in his belt of skills.

Even for a great athlete that can run a 4.3-second 40-yard dash, the speed of the game is his biggest adjustment. He could handle the physical speed of the NFL game since the first route he ran in minicamp on April 29. The mental speed of the game is what he continues to adjust to at the professional level.

Free-agent cornerback and good-natured motormouth Fred Smoot introduced Williamson to the NFL with a barrage of challenges, not to knock the rookie down to size but as a way to let him know he could already be part of the team element. In early practices, the cornerback challenged the wide receiver. But as early as the second day of minicamp, the wide receiver was finding some success against the top-notch free agent. On one play, Williamson started a go route, let out a grunt at about 20 yards and simply outsprinted Smoot downfield while meeting the ball in stride for lengthy touchdown.

It didn't completely stop Smoot from challenging Williamson, but the receiver was never bothered by Smoot's approach.

"I'm a quite type of guy. I let my talent do my talking. I really don't do a lot of talking. I just pretty much lay back, learn and work," Williamson said.

His transition to the NFL was made easier because of his familiarity with a few current Vikings. Before he ever became a Vikings consideration with the No. 7 overall pick in the draft, Williamson knew safeties Corey Chavous, Willie Offord and receiver Robinson.

"Me and Corey are from the same hometown (Aiken, S.C.), me and Willie have the same agent (David Canter), and me and Marcus played at the same college," Williamson said.

His advice from fellow receiver Robinson was, "You earn your position. As a player, you aren't given nothing."

That's exactly how Williamson's first month in purple has gone. He wasn't thrown into practices with the first team. He started mainly with the third team and has seen more sets with the second team as his nerves have calmed and his overall skills have begun to catch up with his raw speed.

He admitted to being "really nervous" in his first practices with the Vikings. By the third day of minicamp, he felt he was starting to get some of the jitters out. By the time he was becoming accustomed to things in development camp two weeks later, he began to look smoother, make better adjustments on the ball and come away with diving catches instead of dropping far easier ones that slid through his hands in April.

He said he was upset with himself for dropping a few passes early. "I don't drop balls," he said. "It's got a lot to do with nerves. It's all good. It will all work out."

It seems to already be working itself out.

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