Viking fans can expect to see a lot of this in the near future.
The first move that the Beloved Purple made in the 2008 free agency season was one that might have come as a surprise to a lot of people, but not to anyone that's seen Madieu Williams perform on the football field.
Williams was drafted out of the University of Maryland in 2004 by the Cincinnati Bengals with the 24th pick in the second round (#56 overall). He's a native of the African nation of Sierra Leone, and moved to the United States with his family at the age of 9. His first name, so that we don't have any confusion, is pronounced muh-DEE-oo. In college, he moved around the defensive backfield quite a bit, playing strong safety and cornerback before settling in at free safety as a junior.
Though he's known as a capable tackler, Williams isn't necessarily known as a "big hitter." His tackling form is good, but he's not going to blow a lot of guys up, as the kids like to say. Where Williams IS impressive, however, is in his coverage abilities. A recent article over at The Ragnarok shows exactly what sort of coverage skills Williams will be bringing to the Beloved Purple. He's been likened to a young Darren Sharper, and I'm quite looking forward to see exactly what kind of chemistry he'll have with the best safety in Green Bay Packers history in the Vikings' current defensive backfield. His coverage skills should also be a great help to the Vikings' young cornerbacks like Cedric Griffin, Charles Gordon, and Marcus McCauley.
Almost as important as what he brings to the Vikings on the field is what he brings to the Minneapolis/St. Paul community off of it. Kevin Seifert says as much in an article written about Williams the day after he signed with Minnesota.
"Not only are you playing football," Williams said, "but also [you are] a member of the community. And I think that's very important to have that balance. Not only are we here to play football but to integrate ourselves in the community that we are a part of."
While playing for Cincinnati from 2004 to 2007, Williams was a regular visitor at Mercy Health Partners Hospital and served as an honorary chairman for the March of Dimes. He started the Madieu Williams Foundation in 2005 after his mother died of a stroke; the mission of the foundation is to encourage children to adopt healthy lifestyles.
Good in coverage AND good in the community?
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the anti-Dwight Smith. Personally, I don't think you can ask for much more in a safety than for him to not be Dwight Smith. I think that Madieu Williams is going to fit in quite nicely as a member of the Minnesota Vikings.
We'll meet the rest of the newest Vikings in the next day or two here. Continue enjoying your weekend, everybody!
Update [2008-3-2 15:30:49 by Gonzo]: - Here's a little tidbit on Williams from Josh Kirkendall, the head blogger over at Cincy Jungle, SBNation's Bengals blog:
He's a good signing for the Vikings, though, I'm not sure if the cost is worth it. Most Bengals fans are fine with him leaving knowing the price it would have meant to keep him.
On a character issue, Williams is tops in class with his community minded charity work. After their mother died, Madieu has taken care of his younger brother, Mike, hardly ever going out, scheduling his life around him. It's a story worth checking out.
Again, sounds pretty good to me.