Mike Williams, the commonly-named receiver with uncommon skills, isn't the boastful sort, nor does he seem affected by the immediate success he has found on the NFL level.
That doesn't mean Williams lacks ambition, however, or confidence for that matter. It's worth noting that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' first-year sensation has, on more than one occasion, stated this as a personal goal for the 2010 season: Win the NFL's Rookie of the Year award.
Hmm. Is it too early to start believing Williams can actually achieve that goal?
The Buccaneers' season just reached the quarter pole, and there are hundreds of rookies getting playing time around the league, some with impressive results. There are other newcomers who will surely emerge over the next 12 weeks. Heck, Williams could end up getting serious competition from some of his teammates, such as defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.
But if one were to put together a mid-October watch list for that Rookie of the Year award, wouldn't Williams be a prominent choice? After all, he has played four NFL games and already been nominated for the league's Rookie of the Week award three times.
The latest nomination was announced on Tuesday. As is the case each week, fans choose the winner by voting for one of five nominees on NFL.com. Along with Williams, the rookies up for this week's award are Philadelphia DE Brandon Graham, Arizona QB Max Hall, Detroit DT Ndamukong Suh and Tennessee CB Alterraun Verner. To place your vote for Williams, please click here. Voting will continue through noon on Friday and the winner will be announced Friday evening.
Williams was also nominated for the award in Weeks One and Two, following the Bucs' games against Cleveland and Carolina. As with those two games, Williams scored a key touchdown on Sunday in Cincinnati to help lead the Bucs to victory.
Williams didn't win the fan vote in either of those first two weeks, but he has now been nominated more than any other player this year, despite not playing in Week Four as the Bucs were on a bye. Williams owns three nominations, Verner, St. Louis QB Sam Bradford and Detroit RB Jahvid Best have all been selected twice.
The Buccaneers have not had a rookie draw this much attention for the weekly award since running back Cadillac Williams in 2005. Williams won it after each of his first three games and eventually was named the Rookie of the Year.
While Cadillac Williams was the fifth overall pick in the '05 draft, the Buccaneers grabbed Mike Williams in the fourth round in April, getting the former Syracuse standout with the 101st pick overall. He was the 14th receiver drafted overall, well after Georgia Tech's Demaryious Thomas went 22nd overall to Denver and Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant went two picks later to Dallas.
Five weeks into the 2010 season, Williams has risen to the top of that list. The Buccaneers' starting split end leads all rookie NFL wideouts in receptions (19), receiving yards (238) and receiving touchdowns (three).
The only rookies with more catches are Detroit running back Jahvid Best (24) and Cincinnati tight end Jermaine Gresham (22). The only rookies with more receiving yards are Best (254) and New England tight end Aaron Hernandez (240). Only Best, with four scores, has more TDs than Williams. This is true despite the fact that 24 of the NFL's 32 teams (including Detroit and Cincinnati) have already played five games, while the Bucs have played just four.
In terms of putting the ball in the end zone, Williams has completely lapped the rest of the rookie wideout field from the 2010 draft. There were 27 wide receivers drafted in April, including Williams, who has scored three times already. The other 26 receivers from the 2010 draft have combined for one touchdown, that one belonging to Denver's Thomas.
Moreover, each of Williams' touchdowns have been spectacular in some fashion. Against Cleveland on opening day, he ignited a 14-point comeback when he reached back to tip a pass away from a Browns defender in the end zone and then spun 270 degrees to locate the deflection and haul it in before falling out of bounds. At Carolina in Week Two, Williams caught a medium-range square-in pass and turned it into a 35-yard go-ahead score by barreling through a gang of defenders inside the 10. And at Cincinnati on Sunday, Williams leaped and somehow wrestled the football away from CB Johnathan Joseph for a 25-yard touchdown that tied the game with 90 seconds to play.
Williams is on pace to catch 76 passes for 952 yards and 12 touchdowns. Only the last of those three numbers would be a new Buccaneer record for rookies, but that output as a whole would be more than any team could hope for from a first-year player drafted in any round, let alone the fourth. It may be a bit earlier to make such full-season projections, but Williams seems like a lock to continue producing big numbers. He is clearly the team's number-one option in the passing game and he has quickly formed a bond with second-year quarterback Josh Freeman.
Williams wants to be the 2010 NFL Rookie of the Year. He may soon have his first Rookie of the Week plaque. Whatever awards end up on his mantle, Williams has already made the Buccaneers very glad they called his name in the fourth round this past April.