Lowber Moving to Next Phase

Todd Lowber is beginning to move beyond the basketball questions and has been focusing on his football career for quite a while now. He's been working hard to refine his skills and climb the ladder of competition. The intriguing prospect talked about transferring his basketball skills onto the football field and the depth of the Vikings' receivers.

The story of Todd Lowber the former basketball player and track star has been well-chronicled. He patiently answers questions about his past but is fervently focused on his future.

Yes, Todd Lowber was a track star in at Ramapo College and wanted to play professional basketball, even playing overseas. But for the last year, Lowber has been focused on getting his athletic skills sharpened for football, and he believes those skills from previous athletic exploits will only help in his quest to become a player in the National Football League.

"Obviously, I'm a basketball player, so jumping ability and size, toughness" are skills that will help, Lowber said. "You can tell that by what kind of basketball player are you. Are you tough? Can you take hits? Can you go into the middle, take hits and finish plays? That's stuff (his personal trainer) saw without even seeing me play basketball."

There have been times during the Vikings' offseason workouts that Lowber looks the part of an accomplished wide receiver. He can make the over-the-shoulder catch while displaying his blazing speed. He can lay out for a ball thrown out of his radius.

Then there have been times that Lowber looks like a former basketball player when he struggles with running a route or drops a pass that is within the catchable radius. Early on in the offseason workouts, his hands looked the part of an NFL receiver. But as March turned to June, he may have been thinking too much about his feet and not his hands.

"I've always really consistently caught the ball. That's the factor you can't not accomplish – you have to catch the ball," he said. "On the routes, I have to always sharpen that. Even the best receivers have to sharpen that up all the time. Catching the ball, that's not an issue for me. If I drop a ball, that's an issue. If you drop a ball, that's like missing a jump shot when the game's on the line."

See, even Lowber relates a lot of his skills to the basketball court. It's a natural point of reference for him … and for those looking to analyze his skills and potential. But, eventually, Lowber will have to get people to consider him a football player first and not just a basketball player trying to catch NFL glory.

He says the way to do that is to simply make plays expected of NFL receivers and do it time and again.

"I've got to make plays. That's all people expect is they want to see plays made. They don't want to see dropped balls. They don't want to see just speed," he said. "You have to make a play and you have to help your football team. If I get out there on kickoff and run one back on the first play, then I think people will say, ‘Wow, he's a football player.'"

Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell says Lowber has made significant progress, and his work ethic has been evident to anyone arriving at the practice fields early. Lowber is often the first one on the field, working by himself in the corner of the end zone on his routes.

"He's made leaps and bounds, and to his credit he's putting about as much time in as any one guy can. The bad thing for him is that he never had the baseline from when we were all growing up," Bevell said. "He must have put the basketball in his hands at the very beginning instead of being out running routes and running around. He's catching up fast. We can feel his speed. If you talk to any of the DBs, they're going to mention him just with his speed. He's made some nice catches, and we'll just have to see how far he can progress."

The Vikings probably view him as a developmental prospect, as they signed him to a three-year contract, but it is not just about how far Lowber progresses. He will need to surpass almost half of the other receivers on the roster, all of which have been playing football through high school and college.

The Vikings have 11 wide receivers on their roster and likely will keep only six of them. Troy Williamson, Bobby Wade and Sidney Rice are shoo-ins. The other eight probably will be battling for three more spots on the active roster, with another one or two potential positions available on the practice squad. It's a deep position for the Vikings, even if there isn't star power at the top, and they drafted three receivers in April that Lowber will have to contend with if he is to stick with the team.

"Those guys have to compete just like I have to compete. It's all about the best ability and the best situation. I didn't get worried or anything like that. I have to earn my spot no matter if they're here or not. I didn't concern myself with that. This is a business and I understand that. If it doesn't work out, then I can only look in the mirror at myself and say I didn't do enough," Lowber said.

"Those guys were drafted and they have to work just like all of us have to work, and I'm sure they will, and I'll work just as hard or harder. I'll set the standard for myself and if they follow, they follow; if they don't, they don't. That's just what I try to do, work as hard as I can. I try not to let anybody work harder than me."

And he'll do whatever he can to help improve his chances. Although he hasn't been used often on kickoff returns, it would seem like a natural spot to test his speed and elusiveness, and he and his agent would both like to see him get the opportunity to prove himself in that role.

"My mentality is I've got to make this team. I've got to be valuable in other ways, too. If I've got to (return kickoffs) to get on this team, then I've got to do it," Lowber said. "I'm going to use that speed, and I've got a lot of cutback ability so if I make a couple cuts and I can see the green grass and that end zone – if I can do that, you'd be hard-pressed to not put a guy that can do that on your team every time … or try or at least get you good yardage. If I get the opportunity, I'm going to take advantage of it. I don't care if those guys are coming down kamikaze or not. You can't tackle what you can't catch."

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