Roy Williams, star rookie wide receiver for the Detroit Lions, can do a lot of things. He can blow past some of the NFL's best cornerbacks. He can make astounding one-handed catches, "man catches," as one of his teammates calls them. And he can put points on the scoreboard. His five touchdowns are just one fewer than the total of the six other wide receivers chosen in the first round of last spring's draft.

But Williams can't do everything. He can't, for instance, drive a stick shift. Oh, he tried. His first summer job in his home town of Odessa, Tex., was making sure the cars were properly aligned in the sales lot of Rogers Ford. He liked to lurch around the lot in the manual-transition Mustangs.

"I might have messed up a couple gears," he said.

Not to worry. In his new Ford job, Williams is Mr. Automatic.

"I'm always hesitant to predict how good a player might be," said Bill Ford, vice chairman of the Lions, chairman of Ford Motor Co. and great-great grandson of automobile pioneer Henry Ford. "But I sure love what I see of him so far. He's wonderful."

What's not to love? Despite having missed almost two games because of a sprained ankle, Williams leads all rookies in receiving and is third in the league with 24 catches for 362 yards. He has emerged as a big-play specialist for the surprising Lions (4-2) and already is eliciting some lofty comparisons.

"Jerry Rice is the best receiver I've ever seen," Lion President Matt Millen said. "But he doesn't have Roy's skill set."

Millen refers to Williams as "a genetic freak," a guy who plays even bigger than his 6-foot-2, 212-pound body, has the speed of a sprinter, and a knack for catching every ball within his area code.

"When he first reported, just being on the practice field, he was catching everything. I mean everything," Lion guard Damien Woody said. "We had the same agent, so my agent was telling me, 'This guy is going to impress you a lot. He's big, fast, everything you want out of a receiver.' He was saying that this guy was probably the closest thing to (Randy) Moss coming into the league. I was thinking, 'That's a lot of talk.' "

A few months later, Woody will take Williams over just about every other wide receiver, including the Philadelphia Eagle's Terrell Owens.

"He reminds me of T.O. but with better physical attributes," Woody said. "This guy catches everything. I think he has better hands than T.O., probably faster than T.O. I think he's a younger, faster version of T.O."

Not everyone was saying that when Williams decided to stay for his senior season at Texas, rather than declaring for the draft as a junior. Had he chosen to leave college, he probably would have been a top 10 pick in 2003, and some people saw his decision as a weakness. Apparently, former Dallas Cowboy wide receiver Michael Irvin was among those doubters.

Recalled Williams, "He was saying, '(USC's) Mike Williams is the best receiver in the draft. Roy Williams has no heart. Should have come out last year. He doesn't love the game, yadda, yadda, yadda.'

"Maybe if I put up more numbers in college, maybe he'd say I was the best. But you've got Mike Williams in that great offense of Norm Chow, catches all those balls, and I'm over here with 700 or 800 yards a season."

An appeals court upheld the NFL's draft-eligibility rules and kept Mike Williams, a sophomore, out of the draft. Roy Williams was selected seventh, and now is the leading candidate for rookie of the year.

"Michael Irvin, love the man half to death, but he was wrong on that one," Roy Williams said. " 'SportsCenter' people aren't always right. He wasn't right on that one."

The Lions play at Dallas on Sunday and hope to win consecutive road games for the first time in 11 years. That matchup could bring a crushing collision between Roy Williams and Roy Williams, the Cowboys' outstanding safety who's among the league's hardest hitters. If that crash occurs, it will be a reunion of the Roys.

"He hit me so hard once, I thought he dislocated my jaw," said Detroit's Williams, who had the misfortune of crossing the safety's path when Texas played Oklahoma.

The refreshing thing about Detroit's Williams is, he keeps his mouth closed most of the time. He isn't a braggart, isn't overly impressed with himself. He's friendly and seems unaffected by his ever-widening fame. He gets a thick bundle of fan mail every week and spends Tuesdays answering it.

"Makes kids feel good that I actually opened their letters, read them, and sent them something back," he said.

And if the kids wind up selling his autograph, well, he understands that too.

"When I was in elementary school and my brother was a big-time star at Odessa Permian," he said, "I would get a piece of paper and say, 'Sign your name 18 times on his piece of paper.' He'd do it, and I'd go to school and sell them for 50 cents. Sold them all."

Years later, the young entrepreneur followed in the footsteps of his older brother, getting a summer job at Rogers Ford, where he's still remembered as a happy young gentleman, always conscientious about keeping the cars lined up neatly.

"He's the kind of guy you'd want your daughter to marry," said Doss Rogers, who owns the dealership and is close friends with Williams' family.

It seems Williams is as cautious off the field as he is fearless on it.

"I'll take him out in my boat and he puts a life jacket on right away," Rogers said. "Every time he says, 'Safety first!' He clings to the back of the boat real tight. Not real daring."

Maybe that's why you'll never spot Williams driving a stick shift on the streets of Motor City.

"If I ever get one, I won't drive it on the road," he said. "Just keep it in the neighborhood."

Chiefs' Stats

The Kansas City Chiefs scored a league-record eight touchdowns rushing against the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday, something many teams have failed to do in an entire season. According to STATS Inc., from 1990 to 2'03, a total of 60 teams had fewer than eight rushing touchdowns in a season, including at least two teams every year.

Four teams failed to hit that mark last season, with the New York Giants scoring six, and the Arizona Cardinals, Lions and Tampa Bay Buccaneers five.

Fast Patriot

Corey Dillon has had three 100-yard rushing games for the New England Patriots this season. In 2003, Antowain Smith had New England's only 100-yard rushing game in Week 16. . . .

If you think Peyton Manning looks good on Sundays, imagine how spectacular he must be during the week, when he lines up against the Indianapolis Colts's defense.

Not only do the Colts have the worst defense in the AFC, allowing almost 400 yards a game, but their pass defense has allowed a league-high four quarterbacks to throw for 300 yards. . . .

How's this for a dead-in-the-water offense: the Baltimore Ravens has gone 22 consecutive games without converting at least 50 percent of its third downs. Four of the Ravens' last six touchdowns were scored by their defense or special teams.

Lions wide receiver Roy Williams, center, leads all rookies in receiving and is third in the NFL with 24 catches for 362 yards.