In the second full week of training camp, Vikings players appeared energized and ready to rock during the Monday morning walk-through. The practice was a shorter one, having been adjusted last minute to a special teams’ walk-through only.
Zach Line was the first one on the field.
He appeared calm but energized, taking the field and chatting with fellow fullback Jerome Felton. When coaches sorted the group, pulling guys to participate in various drills, it appeared Line fell most closely into the second-string roster—definitely a positive position for the SMU alum.
Last year, Line entered camp as a rookie working to make the cut. This season, he seems more settled. “Coming in your rookie year, you’re trying to learn everything, trying to figure out everything at once. This year—you know some of the guys; that makes things easier. You’re still trying to do everything you can, but you know you can only do one thing at once—you just try to do your job well.”
Line smiles, then adds, “it’s the same story as last year: don’t give them a reason to cut you.”
As a senior at Southern Methodist University, Line earned the 2012 C-USA Offensive Player of the Year under head coach June Jones. The revised Vikings coaching staff shares some similarities with Jones’ offense, and that should be an advantage for Line. Comparisons can be made when it comes to the run game, and Line hopes to fill as many roles as he can, whether running the ball, pass protection or blocking.
Line played three games for Minnesota last September during Felton’s suspension, but he later found himself on the IR list. What may have seemed like a negative situation did not discourage Line; rather, it gave him the opportunity to look ahead. And with all the offseason changes and positive team morale, this may be the perfect time for Line to return to the field.
“I think we’re going to be a very physical offense,” Line expressed. “I don’t know exactly what Norv [Turner] has in store for me, but I’m willing to do whatever is needed.”
Throughout high school, college and now the pros, the most consistent praise for Line has been his incredible work ethic and level of discipline. Daily, the 24 year old works to better himself as an athlete. In 2013 Line said, “My practice habits and work ethic are unmatched. I train like I play.
Line’s focus reflects itself on the field time and time again. It’s a mindset that developed in the FB several years before reaching the NFL, and he credits it largely to his high school coach, Bud Rowley. “He wanted tough players that worked hard and brought it every day,” Line said. “He told me good players never take a play off.”
The mentality carried through his time at SMU, and it has certainly paid off in Minnesota. “That’s what Zimmer is looking for, that’s what Norv is looking for – hard-working, disciplined guys.”
Line demonstrated those qualities on the field for both practices Monday, executing several drills with the running backs and always maintaining a level of energy and attentiveness. He fits in well with a group of both mentors and newbies, and it’s a place he feels grateful to be in. Line acknowledged the early progress of rookies like Jerrick McKinnon and AC Leonard, and he stated the importance of having solid role models in both AP and Felton. “I’ve been influenced by them as well,” he said. “They work hard, so I work hard, and in turn the rookies work hard.”
The coaching staff seems happy with Line’s performance thus far, and it will be interesting to see when and where the Vikings utilize No. 48 this season. With Turner at the helm—and a noticeably larger offensive play card—the 2014-2015 season promises to be one of potential for Line.
A huge thanks to fellow VT writer Carl Knowles for help in prepping for this interview and story.