The Minnesota Vikings envisioned Troy Williamson to become Randy Moss’ heir apparent.
That was a tall order, to say the least.
Williamson’s blazing speed helped him create separation from the toughest secondary coverages during his college days at South Carolina.
However, he never lived up to lofty expectations in the NFL.
Instead of filling Moss’ gargantuan shoes, Williamson earned a reputation as a ball dropper.
He also clashed with then-Vikings head coach Brad Childress.
Williamson eventually flamed out after just five seasons in the pro ranks.
His situation was eerily similar to Christian Ponder’s, whom the Vikings drafted in 2011 and took over at quarterback after the great Brett Favre retired.
Neither of them panned out in pro football.
Nevertheless, Troy Williamson became a valuable asset to his local community after he hung up his cleats.
That’s all that matters in the end.
Troy Williamson was born to parents Leroy and Shirley in Aiken, SC on April 30, 1983.
He was part of an 11-children household that his mother and grandmother brought up.
His father passed away in early 2004.
Williamson had a rocky and tumultuous childhood in South Carolina.
His high school teacher at Silver Bluff High School, Mary Endres Thomas, told the Pioneer Press’ Chris Tomasson in 2015 Williamson “ran the streets” and was “bad news” to everyone around him.
He bullied teachers and students alike in school.
— Troy Williamson (@2track_mind) August 26, 2021
Williamson began to turn his life around when he was 12 years old, per Tomasson.
Around that time, his older brother Roy died in a car crash after he stole the vehicle.
He was just eighteen years old.
Troy Williamson’s godfather, Doug Bates, was a local church worker who intervened in the youngster’s life at just the right time.
He convinced his godson to change for the better, per the Pioneer Press.
Bates’ intervention would inspire Williamson to launch his youth foundation when he became an NFL year many years later.
Williamson enrolled at Silver Bluff High School in Aiken, SC.
He excelled on both the gridiron and track.
Williamson won the state title twice in the 100-meter and 200-meter events.
His blazing speed would eventually serve him well on the football field.
Williamson was part of a Silver Bluff Bulldogs football squad that won consecutive state titles under head football coach Al Lown.
He became an All-American and consensus All-State selection during his high school football career.
PrepStar also ranked him the fifth-best wide receiver in the Atlantic region.
Troy Williamson would continue dazzling his home state of South Carolina when he entered the college ranks.
College Days With The South Carolina Gamecocks
Speedy wideout Troy Williamson whittled down his final three college choices to the South Carolina Gamecocks, Clemson Tigers, and Tennessee Volunteers.
He eventually chose legendary head football coach Lou Holtz’s South Carolina program.
As a true freshman, Williamson caught for 491 yards and four touchdowns on 17 receptions during the 2002 NCAA season.
Williamson, who averaged an amazing 28.9 yards per catch that year, established himself as a bona fide long-ball threat.
Unfortunately, the Gamecocks weren’t very good in 2002.
They won just five of 12 games and failed to receive a bowl invite for the first time in three seasons.
As for Williamson, he regressed somewhat during his sophomore campaign.
He hauled in 428 yards and just two touchdowns on 31 receptions.
Worse, his yards-per-reception average plummeted to 13.8 in 2003.
His Gamecocks weren’t any better: they duplicated their sub-par 5-7 win-loss record from the year before.
Nonetheless, Williamson’s 99-yard touchdown reception in a 31-7 upset win over the 15th-ranked Virginia Cavaliers on September 26, 2003 was the stuff of legends.
Williamson’s miraculous touchdown catch set a new school record.
2005 Topps Autographs #T-TW Troy Williamson South Carolina Gamecocks Auto Rookie: $27.24 End Date: Saturday Sep-7-2019 23:33:14 PDT Buy It Now for only: $27.24 Buy It Now | Add to watch list https://t.co/cLyFUABKu1 pic.twitter.com/jNqS3TzEYU
— SportsCardKing.com (@SportsCardKing_) September 8, 2019
He reached the pinnacle of his college football career during his junior season in 2004.
Williamson almost doubled his production that year.
He registered 835 receiving yards and seven touchdowns on 43 receptions.
Williamson’s 43 receptions proved he became a bigger focal point on Holtz’s offense.
He also became one of quarterback Syvelle Newton’s favorite targets.
While the Gamecocks went 6-5 and became bowl-eligible for the first time in three years, they forfeited the opportunity as discipline for their brawl with the Clemson Tigers on November 20, 2004.
That turned out to be Troy Williamson’s final college game.
Coincidentally, it was also the final game Lou Holtz coached in his illustrious 44-year career.
Williamson wrote a letter to South Carolina’s athletic department on December 15, 2004 expressing his desire to turn professional and his gratitude to the university.
Part of his letter read, “I reflected on the discussions that he (his late father Leroy) and my mother, Shirley Williamson, would have of our mutual dreams of me becoming an NFL football player.”
Williamson’s departure made him miss out on first-year Gamecocks head football coach Steve Spurrier’s pass-oriented “Fun n’ Gun” offense.
“It appeared it was obvious that Troy was thinking of entering the NFL Draft,” Spurrier told The Associated Press’ Pete Iacobelli (via The Times and Democrat website). “We wish him all the best and hope he has an outstanding pro career.”
Troy Williamson concluded his three-year stint at South Carolina with 1,754 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns on 91 receptions.
Little did he know fans’ expectations of him would be sky-high once he turned pro.
The Minnesota Vikings made Troy Williamson the seventh overall pick of the 2005 NFL Draft.
The Vikings badly needed a wideout who could replace legendary future Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy Moss.
Minnesota traded Moss to the Oakland Raiders for linebacker Napoleon Harris and two draft choices on February 24, 2005.
Troy Williamson, who signed a five-year, $20 million deal with the Vikings, had gargantuan shoes to fill.
Shortly after Williamson earned his first NFL paycheck, he brought houses for his mother Shirley Williamson and godfather Doug Bates.
Williamson’s 4.32-second finish at the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis apparently piqued the Vikings’ interest, per Tomasson.
The Vikings liked Williamson so much they drafted him ahead of future big-name stars such as Shawne Merriman, DeMarcus Ware, Frank Gore, and Aaron Rodgers.
Williamson was also drafted ahead of Pro Bowl wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Roddy White.
— VikeFans (@VikeFans) April 25, 2018
Eleven years after Williamson broke into the professional ranks, he described his experience as an NFL rookie to the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand:
“It was mind-boggling because that was really the first time I saw how the NFL life is and some of the stuff that goes on.”
“It kind of blew my mind, some of the stuff that could actually happen in the position that we were in.”
“It actually kind of put me on a path to stay away from some stuff like that because it will get you put in the spotlight that you don’t want to be in.”
Williamson referred to the infamous “Love Boat” scandal that rocked the league during his rookie year.
It was a Lake Minnetonka cruise that took place on October 6, 2005.
It turned out it was more than just a cruise.
According to a separate report from Rand, it turned into a “wild sex party” that also allegedly involved several crew members of two yachts.
The cruise got out of hand to the extent supervisors instructed the crew members to head back out to shore just forty minutes into the three-and-a-half hour cruise, per the Star Tribune.
Rand said at least 90 people were on board the two yachts.
He also added at least 17 Vikings players were part of that bigger group.
It remains unclear how many Vikings players were involved in salacious activities during the cruise.
Based on his testimony to Rand, Troy Williamson wasn’t one of them.
While he stayed out of controversy off the field, his performance on it was nowhere near elite levels.
He finished his rookie year with just two touchdowns and 372 receiving yards on 24 receptions in 14 games.
Despite a respectable 9-7 win-loss record, the Vikings didn’t make the postseason.
Rand speculated the “Love Boat” scandal fallout was one of the reasons that led to head coach Mike Tice’s dismissal.
The Vikings tapped former Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Brad Childress to replace Tice.
Williamson would eventually butt heads with the hard-nosed Childress.
RANDOM MINNESOTA ATHLETE OF THE DAY
• 79 REC, 1067 YDS, and 3 TD in 39 career games with the Vikings
• Second in the NFL in 2006 with 11 dropped passes
• Publicly stated he wanted to “duke it out” with Vikings HC Brad Childress pic.twitter.com/XDiPjJ6v03
— SKOR North (@SKORNorth) February 19, 2019
Williamson’s performance in the Twin Cities didn’t improve in the next two seasons.
In Childress’ first full season calling the shots in 2006, Williamson caught for 455 yards and zero touchdowns on 37 receptions in 14 games.
Williamson’s propensity for dropping balls became increasingly evident during his second year in the pro ranks.
First, he dropped a pass near the first down marker during a game against the San Francisco 49ers on November 5, 2006.
Worse, he was wide open when he flubbed the pass.
Had he caught the ball, the Vikings would’ve moved the sticks and potentially tie the game.
Instead, the 49ers won a low-scoring affair, 9-3.
In another low-scoring contest against the Vikings’ hated rivals, the Green Bay Packers, Williamson misjudged where the ball was going to land.
It wound up hitting his back shoulder and eventually the Lambeau Field turf.
The Vikings regressed.
They won just six games during the 2006 NFL campaign.
They also missed the postseason for a second straight year and the fifth time in the last six seasons.
Williamson visited the Nike Headquarters in Oregon during the 2007 offseason.
Specialists discovered he had vision problems in his right eye, per VikingsGazette.com’s Cole Smith.
Consequently, Williamson wore contacts in his right eye to fix the issue.
Had Troy Williamson taken his game to the next level, he would’ve helped Minnesota turn things around.
Regrettably, that didn’t materialize during the 2007 NFL season.
Williamson wasn’t any better during that stretch.
He caught for a paltry 240 yards and one touchdown on 18 receptions in 11 games.
The season finale against the Denver Broncos epitomized Troy Williamson’s hard-luck stint in Minnesota.
Williamson misjudged a pass quarterback Tarvaris Jackson threw his way.
Instead of taking the ball 72 yards into the end zone for a touchdown, he dropped it in full view of teammates, opponents, and fans.
Worse, there was nobody from the Broncos’ secondary in his area on the field.
Vikings vs Bears Flashbacks: 2007 game in Chicago, and Troy Williamson in 2 plays shows you both agony and ecstasy of what his Viking career was and could have been. #vikings pic.twitter.com/y9ZtRIuBGp
— VikeFans (@VikeFans) December 26, 2019
Although the Vikings went 8-8 during the 2007 NFL campaign, they didn’t qualify for postseason football yet again.
Tension between Williamson and Childress escalated when the latter forfeited his wide receiver’s game check worth roughly $25,000 when he went to South Carolina to attend his grandmother’s funeral in early November 2008.
It got so bad Williamson told Rand he wanted to fight Childress when he got traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars a season later.
In fact, Williamson told The Associated Press (via ESPN), “We can meet on the 50-yard line and we can go at it.”
Williamson also said the trade gave him a chance to get away from Childress, per the Star Tribune:
“For me, it was about not understanding the importance of family and some of the things I had going on back home.”
“And I never really got a true apology for that. He went back and gave me the game check back which I donated to charity to show it wasn’t even about the money – but that was because the veterans like Antoine Winfield and Bryant McKinnie went back at it.”
“They know the importance of family and other things bigger than football. So that was the time that I lost respect (for Childress).”
“After that it was tough playing for him, and I was kind of glad I got to leave Minnesota and get out from under him.”
The game check controversy was just one part of a trying time in Williamson’s personal life.
Not only did his grandmother pass away, but his older brother Carlton was involved in a freak car accident two months earlier.
At the time Williamson wanted to fight Childress, the former’s older brother just recovered from several comas in the hospital.
Doctors feared he might not walk again, per The Associated Press (via ESPN).
Williamson told the Pioneer Press that Childress didn’t understand his family situation:
“He was in a coma for about three months, and (then) wasn’t able to walk. So that was the first time that I had seen him since the accident when I went down to my grandmother’s funeral.”
“I still have the same ill against Coach Childress that I had back then. I take my family serious, and he didn’t understand that.”
When his tenure Troy Williamson’s Minnesota ended, he explained to the Bleav in Vikings podcast in 2021 (via the VikingAge.com’s Adam Patrick) he “wasn’t mentally ready” to replace a big star such as Randy Moss:
“Now that I look back, I can say that I wasn’t mentally ready to be drafted at No. 7.”
“And then trying to come back in to replace a guy like Randy Moss, I knew I wasn’t ready mentally to be put in that position to put in the work that I needed to do to be able to do that. I didn’t know what it took to be able to take over that position.”
“I wanted to be drafted high, but I don’t know if I wanted to actually come in and try to replace a guy like Randy Moss. I wasn’t mentally ready to be put in that position.”
Williamson had another shot at retribution in Jacksonville.
— Big Cat Country (@BigCatCountry) July 22, 2015
Unfortunately, injuries limited him to just 10 appearances over a two-season stretch from 2008 to 2009.
He caught for a paltry 64 yards, one touchdown, on eight receptions during that span.
During Williamson’s Jacksonville tenure, the Jaguars went 12-20.
That set off a stretch of futility where the Jags have missed the postseason 12 times in the past 13 years.
Jacksonville eventually waived Williamson on September 4, 2010.
He had played his last down in the National Football League.
Williamson concluded his five-year pro football career with 1,131 receiving yards and four touchdowns on 87 receptions.
While Williamson’s NFL career did not turn out the way he had hoped, bigger things were in store for him after he hung up his cleats.
Ten years after the Minnesota Vikings made Troy Williamson the seventh overall pick of the 2005 NFL Draft and heir apparent to Randy Moss, he told the Pioneer Press’ Chris Tomasson the years flew by so fast:
“It seems like it was just yesterday. Ten years flew by.”
“A lot of things factored into me obviously not reaching my potential that I wanted.”
“It is what it is, but I’m enjoying life with the things that I’m doing now.”
According to Tomasson, Williamson now resides in Evans, GA which is just 30 miles west from his hometown of Aiken, SC.
Williamson runs a Which Wich Superior Sandwiches restaurant franchise and his Fighting Against the O.D.D.S. (Opening Doors Doing Service) foundation in Aiken.
We are officially open in 15 mins….store 1 down…so excited…. pic.twitter.com/IzNjrxuSvh
— Troy Williamson (@2track_mind) October 21, 2013
Williamson’s foundation, which he started during his playing days with the Vikings, is geared toward children.
He described how his foundation worked to the Pioneer Press:
“We deal with middle-school kids. Not necessarily kids that are bad, but that have a hard time adjusting to life.”
“We bring all the kids together and take them to baseball and football games and teach them how to study and get along with each other.”
“I know how it was when I was growing up and I know some of the kids need the same help I got.”
Williamson’s South Carolina Gamecocks head football coach, the great Lou Holtz, told Tomasson he’s elated his former wide receiver is giving back to his local community:
“I worried about him, what he was going to do when he left the pros,” Holtz told the Pioneer Press in 2015. “I’m so happy he has chosen to go back to his hometown and make a difference.”
Charity Williamson, Troy’s wife whom he met in 1997, encouraged the former NFL wideout to start a restaurant business in his hometown, per Tomasson.
Williamson told Yahoo! Small Business he paid approximately $400,000 to start his Which Wich Superior Sandwiches restaurant.
He also said setting up his food franchise was a daunting challenge, per Yahoo! Small Business:
“Nothing out of the ordinary, but you can’t get discouraged. If everything was easy, it wouldn’t be worth it.”
“From parts and equipment coming in late, to working with different contractors and training myself while having to train others; it was all busy work, and can get hectic but it is well worth it.”
Williamson had been planning on launching another Which Wich location.
The thought of starting a Smoothie King business and a gaming truck concept also piqued his interest.
— Troy Williamson (@2track_mind) June 1, 2016
Troy Williamson is also a motivational speaker who reaches out to church congregations, students, and entrepreneurs.
The Williamson couple has three children: Royal, 13; Royce, 11; and Rayland, 7.
Troy Williamson entered the NFL with huge expectations.
Regrettably, he never lived up to them.
However, he’s bounced back with a vengeance by giving back to the community and thriving as an entrepreneur and motivational speaker.
It turns out he’s another gridiron warrior who got another lease on life once his playing days came to an end.