When the Packers made him their first-round draft choice back in April, the knock on Javon Walker was that the guy was a 'slow learner.' He had to be, didn't he? After all, he only scored a 9 on his Wonderlic test.
And who knows what it's worth the other 364 days of the year, but on Draft Day the Wonderlic is irrefutable. In the case against Javon Walker, it was to be the smoking gun.
So when Walker suggested that he'd 'blown off' the exam, it only seemed proof of the pudding. Blow off a test that could affect your draft status -- and with it, perhaps a few million dollars -- how smart was that?
But that was April, and now it's almost August, and watching Walker go through just a few training camp practices it's clear that there's a learning problem here, because there are two things he seems unable to grasp: Rookie wide receivers aren't supposed to impress, and they're certainly not supposed to contribute, yet Walker is already doing the former and -- while it's early -- seems to have it within him to do the latter.
"You guys have been here long enough to know that not many players have come in here and started or contributed significantly as rookies at that position," GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman said to the media after Monday's morning practice. "I would say that he is ahead of the learning curve in regard to that. All the hoopla and misinformation about his inability to learn certainly has not been the case here in this training camp."
In fact, it doesn't seem to have been the case all along. Sure, in the average practice Walker sees to it that wide receivers coach Ray Sherman gets more questions thrown at him than Alex Trebek, but it's not because he's behind on his studies, it's just that he wants to move forward.
And it's one of the reasons Ray Sherman said he knew Walker was going to be "special."
"Ever since day-one, he wants to learn," the receivers coach said. "He asks questions, he comes in, he studies, he prepares and that's from the very first time we met at the combine. We were fortunate enough to get him in the draft and he's been that same kind of guy."
On the field, the results are starting to show.
Perhaps no play provided greater evidence than the one Monday morning when Walker, busting up the right sideline, adjusted in one step to catch a Brett Favre rocket that was headed to the inside of the defender. Already the Packers feel that Walker has the speed to go deep and the height to work the sideline, but if he can work to the inside of the defender as well, it's going to be tough to convince Favre not to look his way.
Of course, Walker still has a long way to go. The Packers will have No. 1 receiver Terry Glenn on the field as much as possible, with Robert Ferguson currently holding rights to the No. 2 spot and fourth-year veteran Donald Driver in the midst of an impressive training camp that should at least buy him increased playing time, if not even Ferguson's starting spot.
The competition at the position will be fierce, but of all the receivers, Walker's relative inexperience probably makes him the likeliest player to make the longest strides from the first training camp practice to the last.
"It appears to me (that) every day he comes out here, he gets better," GM/Head Coach Sherman said. "He's a guy that has come in here and worked extremely hard. (He) is trying to earn a spot on this team just like if he wasn't drafted."
Said Walker, "I'm moving along. Everything that they've thrown at me so far, I'm just picking it up, so if they threw something at me today, I'll know it tomorrow . . . A lot of the stuff has just been coaching points on how to get a better shot on the field."
If Walker earns his shot, it could have a lot of people forgetting about that 9-point score and thinking about the 6-point variety.