As the saying goes “speed kills” and that was the biggest weapon that former South Carolina WR, Troy Williamson possessed. The natural speed of Williamson was supposed to present a big-play threat for the Minnesota Vikings. That never happened.
Nevertheless, Williamson’s speed was clear from the beginning. In high school the multi-sport athlete excelled at both football and track, winning multiple state championships in the 100 and 200 meter dash at Silver Bluff High School in South Carolina. However football was his true calling.
In his senior year Troy was named South Carolina’s class AA Player of the Year and consensus All-State honors. These accolades came from a prolific senior season in which he accumulated 890 rushing yards, and 21 receptions for 500 yards. He also led Silver Bluff to a class AA state championship, in that game he had 3 touchdowns along with 189 yards rushing.
On Jan. 13th 2002 Williamson informed his high school coach Al Lown that he would play college football for Lou Holtz’s Gamecocks. Georgia, Clemson, and Tennessee also fought to recruit Williamson, who was considered the 16th best receiver prospect in the nation after his senior year.
“Troy liked the fact that he has a chance to play a lot as a freshman next year,” Lown said. “The success that South Carolina has had in the last couple of years also played a part in his decision.” (The Augusta Chronicle)
Williamson quickly became an asset for South Carolina, starting in 5 games for the team. Troy would be named a freshman All-American and freshman All-SEC, based on his team leading 4 receiving touchdowns and 491 receiving yards.
The numbers would stay consistant in his second year, but it was his senior year in which he provided his biggest contributions. Williamson finished the 2004 season with 43 receptions for 835 yards and 7 touchdowns, his TD total was first in the SEC for that season.
Troy would leave South Carolina for the NFL after his junior year finishing seventh all-time in receiving yards for the Gamecocks, a record that now stands at eight all-time. Williamson noted in an ESPN chat that the hiring of Steve Spurrier and the QB situation for the Gamecocks heading into 2005 as his decision-maker.
Troy, you were truely the heart and soul of the gamecocks receivers last season in a run-first offense. So why did you choose to leave early knowing that Steve Spurrier was bringing his pass happy offense to Columbia?
Troy Williamson (3:03 PM)
Even though Coach Spurrier is good with offenses, I had to look at my own situation and what the QB situation would be like.
Williamson’s accomplishments at South Carolina, and his NFL combine (4.32 40-yd dash) made him a lock for the first-round. Still most figured he would go mid-round. However the Minnesota Vikings made a deal with the Oakland Raiders which sent Randy Moss packing and gave Minnesota the 7th pick. With that pick the Vikings would select Williamson, experts praised the pick of the speedy Williamson over the big possession receiver, Mike Williams.
“Where do we start? Top pick Troy Williamson goes deep and doesn’t walk off the field while the game’s going on.” Grade: A (Sports Illustrated)
“Best pick: Not giving in to public perception and passing on Mike Williams to take the faster Troy Williamson was the right move for this team.” Grade: A (CBS Sports)
Once Williamson put on the Purple and Gold everything went downhill. There was an expected learning curve for the pure speed receiver, but not a complete lapse of everything that he was considered to excel at, hand-eye coordination being the biggest.
In his rookie season he would appear in three games as a starter, and in those games he would have two touchdowns. Williamson’s next season would find the receiver with zero touchdowns in 11 starts.
Drops would also becoming a glaring issue, leading to Williamson visiting an eye specialist during the ’06-07 offseason to figure out his depth perception issues. Ironically, Sports Illustrated’s pre-draft review claimed his hand-eye coordination was an asset to his skill-set.
”Outstanding running form. Good eye/hand coordination and fluid making the deep reception at full speed.” (Sports Illustrated)
Whatever the cause of Williamson’s issues were, they weren’t solved in 2007, which would prove to be his last in Minnesota. The terrible year for Williamson was low-lighted by two crucial drops in Minnesota’s season finale against Denver, which all but made his release from the team a certainty.
Besides the drops, his relations with coach Brad Childress went south earlier in 2007 when he was fined around $25,588 dollars for not returning to the team in a timely matter after the death of his grandmother. The organization cited similar events by Pat Williams and Reggie Wayne as their backing behind the fine.
“He had a family obligation that he had to see to,” Childress said. “We sat down and talked on it before he left. … He had to do what he had to do. Everybody handles that differently. [Williamson] had to do what his family situation called for.”
“I don’t care if they would have [taken] my pay for the rest of the year, I was going home,” Williamson told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “It wouldn’t have mattered to me.” (ESPN)
Later the team would recant on the fine, but as we would learn later Childress and Williamson’s beef would not be extinguished.
Minnesota would salvage some value from their busted pick by trading Troy to the Jacksonville Jaguars for a sixth-round pick. Williamson’s woes would continue there, only appearing in 10 games and staring in 2. The team would re-sign him in 2010, but never saw the field.
The only thing worth noting about his time with the Jaguars was his threat to fight Childress when the two teams faced off for the first time after the trade.
“If y’all can give this to coach Childress, we can meet on the 50-yard line,” Williamson said. “We can go at it. I’d even tie my hands around my back.”
Williamson obviously isn’t over his Minnesota tenure, which ended with the Vikings trading him to the Jaguars last spring for a sixth-round draft pick.
Asked whether he harbored special feelings about playing against his former team, Williamson answered flatly with a “no.”
“If I can duke it out with coach Childress, that would be a different story,” Williamson said. “Other than that, this is just another game.” (Yahoo!)
By now he has appeared in many draft bust columns, but the question remains “What the Hell Happened to Troy Williamson?”. To answer that we look no further than twitter.
Troy still considers himself active, although not on any NFL roster at this time. More notably he is now a proclaimed philanthropist and motivator, along with an athlete.
Williamson’s philanthropic endeavor “Against the O.D.D.S” sets to help young people facing “adversity, through service learning, scholarship and physical activity.” He also become a franchisee of “Which Wich“, which opens in his hometown of Aiken, South Carolina in 2013.
While the NFL was not kind to Williamson, whether it was himself to blame or not, it seems as if he has found a successful life outside of the league.
With countless stories of NFL busts and players going broke, it is good to see someone recover from a career that wasn’t what it was supposed to be.
Read more of our “What the Hell Happened to…?” series.