When the Vikings chose Ole Miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell with the 23rd pick of the 2016 draft, it seemed like the perfect match of team and player. The Vikings needed a big playmaker. Treadwell fit that description. But the 21-year-old wideout barely got on the field in his rookie season, registering just one catch before injuries cost him time late in the season. Treadwell, who was in Los Angeles signing trading cards for Panini America at this weekend’s NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, chatted by phone with the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand about 2016 and beyond:
Q As you reflect on the 2016 season, it didn’t go the way I imagine you planned it. How did it all unfold and what in your mind went wrong?
A Nothing went wrong. Nothing went wrong. I’m looking forward to next year and this offseason and getting back on the field and trying to win ballgames.
Q How did you handle it when you weren’t playing?
A I mean, everybody is a competitor and wants to be out there, you know? But I didn’t get the opportunity, so I’m looking forward to this offseason and training hard and going back at it next year and getting on the field.
Q What do you specifically need to do to improve this offseason and get on the field more in your second season?
A It’s not what I need to do, it’s gaining the trust and the opportunities from the coaches. Every year you just need to keep getting better. Everybody is going to get better in the offseason.
Q There were so many things that happened to the Vikings as a team in 2016. Was that an eye-opener for you, just going through your first NFL season and seeing all the ups and downs?
A Absolutely. It kept us all humble and grounded. I tried to do everything I could to help the team. We stayed close, we made it through the season and fought all the way through.
Q How do you describe Mike Zimmer as a head coach?
A He’s probably the toughest coach I’ve ever played for. Zero tolerance. He expects greatness from you each and every day you come to work.
Q As a player, do you like that and respect that from a coach?
A It’s hard not to respect it. When you have someone who has that power preaching that to us, that’s what you want out of a coach. … You can’t lack confidence in yourself. And I do expect a lot from myself.
Q The NFL combine is soon, and as soon as we know it the draft will be here again. Do you have any advice for players coming out of college now that you’ve gone through an NFL season?
A Just focus on ball. Don’t worry about all the outside stuff, just worry about football and do what you do. Focus on what got you to that point.
Q Do you get any down time here in the offseason, and if so what are you up to?
A Yeah, I’ve been spending a lot of time with my family and working out. Really it’s not much down time. Just getting my body healthy and getting ready to go in three months.