Laquon Treadwell was struggling early on in his return from a gruesome leg injury last fall when a friend reached out for a helping hand from the man who had two of the best mitts in NFL history.
“Laquon was in a bit of a slump,” Vikings Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter said Friday. “They wanted to know if I could talk him through his junior season. I work with a lot of the top receivers. It’s been great getting to know Laquon, and it’s even more special now because he also happens to play for my favorite team.”
The Vikings drafted Treadwell 23rd overall Thursday. The 6-2, 221-pound Ole Miss receiver arrived in the Twin Cities on Friday, where he met fans, gave interviews and talked about a mentorship under Carter that he’s excited to extend.
“He has so much knowledge on the game that I didn’t know was even possible,” Treadwell said of Carter, an eight-time Pro Bowler who caught 1,101 passes and scored 130 times in 16 seasons.
After watching Treadwell last fall and then working out with him this spring, Carter gave two wholehearted thumbs up to his former team.
“I think his football IQ, his temperament, is the perfect fit to what they’ve been looking for an awful long time,” Carter said. “They weren’t able to get it through free agency. They weren’t able to get it through the guys they’ve drafted. But I believe they’ll get it from Laquon. With Teddy [Bridgewater] and Adrian [Peterson], they are only a couple of players away from being real, real, real good.”
Dump the dash?
Carter laughed when asked for his 40-yard dash time coming out of Ohio State.
“I was a 4.6 guy,” he said.
Treadwell was a 4.63 guy at his pro day. Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said he believes that’s why Treadwell fell to No. 23, where he was the fourth receiver drafted. But Spielman, coach Mike Zimmer, offensive coordinator Norv Turner and Carter all said Friday that Treadwell plays a lot faster than his 40 time.
“Speed is needed in football, but how it’s appropriated and used is the key,” Carter said. “Trust me. I wish I was faster. If Laquon had run a 4.4, he wouldn’t be with the Vikings today. He’d have been long gone.
“But you can see through Michael Irvin, myself, Dez Bryant, Jerry Rice, you don’t have to run a great 40 to be a great football player. And Laquon is a great football player. Why? Because he has great catch radius. He can catch the ball in traffic. He’s physical.”
When the Vikings traded Randy Moss after the 2004 season, they got the seventh overall pick in 2005. They needed a receiver and were enamored with South Carolina’s Troy Williamson primarily because he ran a 4.32 at the scouting combine. He lasted three years, caught three touchdown passes and was dumped as one of the worst draft picks in team history.
“We all can’t run 4.3,” Carter said. “But, hey, I’ve seen the Vikings draft a lot of guys who can run. But they can’t play receiver. And didn’t they just let a guy go named Mike Wallace? Wasn’t that his thing? Speed?”
Carter played his final season in 2002 under Turner, who was Miami’s offensive coordinator. He said Treadwell is the “prototypical X receiver” in Turner’s offense. Irvin played that position when he, Turner and the Cowboys were winning back-to-back Super Bowls in 1992-93.
Yes, Turner has heard the Irvin comparisons.
“I think they were different receivers,” Turner said. “But the thing they have in common is they’re both big men and they play in a very physical manner.”
Turner has been around the game long enough to not overstate 40-yard dash times.
“There are just too many really good players, Pro Bowlers and Hall of Famers, that didn’t have great 40 times,” Turner said. “It’s an indicator of how fast you run. But some guys play that fast and some guys don’t. Laquon caught  balls in college. And they were all kinds of balls. Deep, crossing, intermediate.”
Treadwell and Carter, who share the same agent, spent two weeks this spring working out together in Boca Raton, Fla. They worked out daily for nearly two hours.
“One of the things that blew Laquon’s mind was when I had him do daily hand stretches,” Carter said.
“Stretch your fingers. It creates flexibility and makes a difference. He had never heard of it before and was amazed how instantly his hands became so much more flexible. He felt like he could catch the ball better.
“Laquon has good hands. They aren’t as big as mine, but he’s a good catcher of the ball. With the stretching routine, you can see the increase in your hands in size and dexterity between the fingers, especially between the thumb and forefinger.”
Those are the kinds of things Treadwell is thirsting for from Carter.
“He wants to work, he really does,” Carter said. “I actually had to shut him down this spring. I was like, ‘Listen, we’re just getting ready for the combine and the pro day.’ This is all you need to know right now. Once he starts having to learn the Vikings offense, I’ll get tape of him and help him as long as he wants me to.”
Ready for greatness
Treadwell has said repeatedly that he feels the Vikings are the perfect fit for him. But it’s apparent that he’s not happy to be the fourth receiver drafted.
Especially when the primary reason appears to be a poor 40 time. Treadwell and the Vikings also believe the 20-year-old receiver will get faster as he continues to build strength and confidence from the leg injury in which he fractured his left fibula and dislocated his left ankle against Auburn in 2014.
Spielman said Treadwell looked “rusty” early last season but came on strong at the end of the year.
“The [40-yard dash] doesn’t play a role in what happens on the field,” Treadwell said. “A lot of guys can run fast but can’t go left, can’t go right, can’t go back, can’t go deep, can’t make the play.
“It’s part of what helps guys get drafted higher, but look at some of the greatest receivers. They weren’t the fastest, so I really don’t get caught up in it. That’s my goal. To look at the greatest and prolong my career and get better over time.”
It sure sounds as if Carter will be there to guide him through the journey.