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Tampa Bay Buccaneer rookie receivers Arrelious Benn, Mike Williams hope to form dynamic duo

TAMPA

Think of it as the start of a beautiful relationship. Think of it as a new partnership. Think of it as the first scenes from a brand new buddy movie.

The two young men sat in their hotel room, talking late into the night about the routes they had traveled and the routes they will have to run, about big skills and big goals, about their disappointments and their doubters. For them, this is where the journey begins. For them, this is where the proving starts.

Mike, meet Arrelious.

Arrelious, say hello to Mike.

From now on, you might as well think of yourselves as part of a set.

Together, they are the new weapons of the Tampa Bay Bucs, the zig and the zag of the future. They cast similar shadows, Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams. They are both tall, rangy receivers. They are both confident. They are both eager. Soon, as they race toward the end zone, you can debate which is better.

For now, however, they are a duo, and they enter the league side by side. The best thing is they seem to realize how important each is to the other.

"He will make me better," Benn said, "and I will make him better."

"This is the perfect situation for both of us," Williams said. "Him on one side and me on the other? It sounds good."

It sounded good to the Bucs, too, which is why they traded up to get Benn in the second round then took Williams in the fourth despite his controversies. The Bucs say they had first-round grades on both players. If that proves out, they have just presented Josh Freeman with options for years to come.

In the NFL, impact receivers often travel in pairs. Lynn Swann and John Stallworth. Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. Mark Duper and Mark Clayton. Randy Moss and Wes Welker. A lot of successful teams have had co-stars as their wide receivers.

Benn and Williams?

We'll see.

So who are these guys? Williams, 6 feet 2, 212 pounds, is the chatty one, smiling and bubbly and determined to convince the world he is a better guy than the one it has read about in recent months. Benn, 6-1, 219 pounds, is quieter, but his confidence is more obvious.

Together, both of them have made nice first impressions during this weekend's rookie minicamp, on the Bucs and on each other.

"He's amazing," said Williams, talking about Benn. "I see a big, strong receiver who can go down the field and catch the ball in traffic. And he has hands. I shook his hand the other day, and I said, 'Wow, he's got big hands.' "

"I've seen his drive, and I think he has the same drive I have," said Benn, talking about Williams. "He's a big receiver who can stretch the field. He can get open and be a big-play guy."

At this point, of course, the next question is obvious:

How soon, exactly, can all of this happen?

It isn't too much to expect that some of it can happen immediately. Wide receiver is a position where players can make an immediate impact. Boldin caught 101 passes as a rookie with Arizona. Terry Glenn caught 90 with the Patriots. Marques Colston caught 70 for the Saints. Long ago, Michael Clayton caught 80.

So what's fair to expect? Forty receptions? Fifty? Sixty?

"More than 50," Benn said. "I don't want to say a set number. I don't want to put pressure on myself. But I look at myself making a big impact. That's why they drafted me."

Williams won't give a number either. But, yeah, he has expectations.

"I don't know if it will be this year or next year, but I expect to be a success in this league," Williams said. "I just want to earn playing time. I want to be one of those guys who my teammates say, 'When Mike is in there, he helps us win.' "

Here at the start, it will take a lot of catches before people are convinced. Still, Benn and Williams can take pressure off each other. They can set a pace for each other. They can bedevil defenses together.

So what separates the good receivers from those who fail?

"I think it's about who wants it more," Benn said. "I want it more than the next guy."

"All receivers think the same way," Williams said. "You don't think the other guy can check you. I'm running routes on air, so throw me the ball. That's my mentality, too. I think, 'There is no way they're stopping me on this play.' "

So how do you separate the two? Williams plays the X (split end) and Benn plays the Z (strongside). Also, you can think of Williams as a cat and Benn as a dog. As it turns out, one NFL scout asked Williams which of the two pets he'd rather be.

"A cat,'' Williams said, "because cats have nine lives. And I've already used one.''

"No one asked me that," Benn said, "but I would say a dog."

With Williams and Benn, the challenge is not simply proving themselves. It's also disproving the doubts.

For Williams, that starts with showing the Bucs didn't make a mistake by drafting a player who quit his team last year at Syracuse and who was suspended for cheating on an exam. Bad mistakes? No one would argue that. Bad guy? Williams says no.

"I'm way different than people think," Williams said. "I have to prove that. People assume that since I got in trouble in college, I'm this terrible person. Once they meet me, it's different. People say, 'Is this the guy we're talking about?' "

Here's something about Williams you might not know. He admits he's not the best receiver at his dinner table. That would be Mary Williams, his mom. When in high school, Mary filed a lawsuit in order to play high school football. She lost.

"My mom is easily the best receiver in the family," Mike said. "I tell people that, and they think I'm kidding. But she's the one who taught me how to run routes. She'd make a great slot receiver for us."

Benn's mother, too, played some receiver in her time. Denise Benn played flag football and ran track. She also raised five sons as a single mother. One of those, Arrelious' older brother, Trulon Henry, served four years for armed robbery. Benn says he has tried to learn from his brother's mistake. Henry, by the way, is now a safety at Illinois.

Here's something about Benn you might not know. On draft night, he was ticked. Despite the drop-off of his numbers in his last year at Illinois, he thought he should have gone higher.

"I should have been drafted in the middle of the first round," he says flatly. "I thought I was going to Denver. They drafted Demaryius Thomas. He's a big guy, but … I thought I was going to go there."

Instead, he fell to the second round of the draft. He still isn't happy about it, which leads us to the first competition between Benn and Williams. They disagree on who comes into the NFL with the bigger chip on their shoulder.

"I don't think his is close to mine," Williams said. "He has a chip, too, but mine is way over his."

"He said his chip is bigger than mine?" Benn said, laughing. "I don't think so. I've got a boulder. I've got a tractor-trailer up there."

And so it starts. Let's admit this: Even good teammates want to outdo the other. So, yeah, there is going to be some competition between Benn and Williams. And why not? In Miami, you can still debate whether Clayton was better than Duper. In Pittsburgh, you can argue about Swann vs. Stallworth.

Here? We'll see.

If the Bucs are right, you can check back in, oh, a decade or so.

Tampa Bay Buccaneer rookie receivers Arrelious Benn, Mike Williams hope to form dynamic duo 05/01/10 [Last modified: Saturday, May 1, 2010 10:11pm]

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