Before the season, Moe Williams heard it from more than one of his friends that doesn't play football.
"All my friends that are really big into fantasy football, they were like, ‘I love you man, but I didn't pick you (in the draft),'" Williams said.
The Vikings running back was laughing as he recalled the words. Williams has good reason to smile these days, even as he recalls the fact his friends snubbed him in their leagues.
Eight games into the season, Williams had a team-leading eight rushing touchdowns. He also was second on the Vikings in rushing with 257 yards on 54 carries (a 4.8-yard average).
Williams has found success in his second stint with the Vikings, largely because he embraces his role as a third-down back.
"You have to find your role, and that's one thing coaches say all the time. ‘You have to accept your role, you have to be good at your role and do your role,'" Williams said. "My role is third-down back right now, and I'm trying to be the best at it."
A third-round pick by the Vikings in 1996 out of Kentucky, Williams was not always so patient. Like so many young players, Williams had big expectations when he first joined the Vikings.
"I tell you what, it's rough," he said. "When you come from college everybody that is here was their man at their college. So if you have a big ego, you usually won't last here. There are lot of guys that come here and think they are too good to play special teams and they end up going home."
Williams never ended up going home, but he was cut by the Vikings in September 2001. He was quickly picked up by Baltimore and reunited with Brian Billick, the former Vikings offensive coordinator.
It turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to Williams. Injuries and Billick's faith in him presented Williams with a golden opportunity.
In five seasons with the Vikings, Williams had rushed the ball only 69 times for 195 yards and two touchdowns and caught 10 passes. Last season, Williams played in 15 games, started twice and rushed for 291 yards on 65 carries (a 4.5 average). He also caught 23 passes for 210 yards.
"Really, I just grew up," he said of his time with the Ravens. "Getting released from Minnesota was probably the best thing that could happen to me because I was able to go and grow someplace else and get opportunities. I was able to come back here and show what I could do."
Williams said the Vikings made no false promises about what his role would be. "Exactly what I'm doing is what they told me I would be doing," he said.
In addition to his performance on the field, Williams also is playing a valuable role in the locker room. The 28-year old might not be the Vikings' featured running back, but that has not stopped him from taking a leadership role.
That was apparent after the Vikings' loss to Buffalo in Week 2 when Williams rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown. He was presented with a game ball but declined to accept it because the Vikings didn't win.
"As a leader, he has done and surpassed everything that was expected of him when Mike Tice brought him back from Baltimore," running backs coach Dean Dalton said. "He has grown as a football player and matured as a leader, and not only accepted the role and embraced it but has excelled at it.
"He has been terrific for the young running backs to learn from, and he has been terrific for the rest of the team. It's not just the running back meeting room that he leads in. It's the offense and the entire locker room. … Moe has been terrific by every measure."
Williams A TD And Locker-Room Leader
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