MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Maxx Williams was the most explosive offensive weapon to play for the Gopher football team in years.

He also might be Minnesota’s first first-round pick since Laurence Maroney in 2006.

So now as the Gophers conduct their spring practices, the emphasis turns to figuring out how to replace him.

In case you’d forgotten what they’re trying to replace, just watch Williams hurdle those two Missouri defenders in the Citrus Bowl.

So maybe it’s a good sign that the guy tasked with replacing him ran hurdles in high school.

“But no, not two in a row with a touchdown,” Duke Anyanwu said. “So he’s pretty impressive. A pretty impressive guy.”

There’s a good chance Anyanwu would’ve been pretty impressive too last year — he was primed to be a big contributor behind Williams, had the Blaine graduate not torn his ACL the first week of practice and missed the entire season.

“Right when I went down, I was like, it’s my ACL, I know it” he said. “And it was tough. But you know, it happens.”

He knew because it had happened before, to his other knee, his freshman year.

“They say it’s easier the second time around, but it might be a little tougher mentally,” Anyanwu said. “But it’s easier physically, I’d say.”

His comeback impressed his coaches.

“You just can’t say enough about the way he went about his business, always had a smile on his face,” offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said. “I think he’s got a tremendous faith that it was going to happen for him and that those setbacks, they’re bumps in the road, but as soon as that road smooths out, things are gonna be good.”

Seven months after the tear, Anyanwu says he’s healthy again. He’s overcome those hurdles.

“My top end speed is definitely back to where it was already,” he said. “And I think I’m getting faster and faster as time goes.”

And he says he’s still primed for the breakout season he was supposed to have last year.

Without Williams, his team will sure need it.

“He’s a great guy to learn from,” Anyanwu said. “And I don’t feel too much pressure, because I’m just kind of playing the game.”

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