Without a doubt, Captain Munnerlyn proves one of the biggest intrigues at this year’s Vikings training camp.
Munnerlyn signed a three-year free agent deal with Minnesota on March 13 after spending five seasons with the Carolina Panthers. In 2013, the 25-year-old intercepted two passes and returned both for touchdowns. He also tallied a career-high 74 tackles and 3 ½ sacks.
At 5’9”, Munnerlyn has been considered undersized for his position. However, as the numbers indicate, his size poses no disadvantage. “I’ve been shutting up the critics since I got to Carolina,” Munnerlyn said. “They’ve been saying I’m too small, I’m too slow, I’m not big enough. I just go out here and play football and prove to people that they were wrong about me.”
The South Carolina alum also proved he was right about himself; he is more than capable of playing this position.
“I’ve been who I knew I could be at this position—you don’t have to have a big tall corner to play that position. Be aggressive, and play with a big chip on your shoulder. That’s what I play with. I go out and do my job as best as I can.”
Critics can say all they want, but when push comes to shove, the only opinion that matters is that of the coaching staff—and Mike Zimmer could not be more thrilled to have Munnerlyn on board for the 2014 season. In an Aug. 4 presser, Zimmer said the following:
“[Munnerlyn] is smart, number one. He’s tough, he’s a competitive kid […] these qualities help him to overcome any of the size factors. He’s a little pit bull.”
The former defensive line coach knows exactly what he is looking for in defensive backs, and Munnerlyn’s enthusiasm to play for Zimmer is evident. The CB cites this as one of the biggest reasons he decided to sign with Minnesota. “I love playing for defensive line coaches,” he said. “If we can win on defense, if we can keep the points down on defense, we’re going to win a whole bunch of games. He’s a defensive-minded guy […] he’s building his team on defense.”
Although Munnerlyn has yet to play a regular season for the Vikings, he said the learning curve isn’t too steep. Because he played in a similar defensive scheme in Carolina, it is mostly a matter of learning different terminology. Munnerlyn explained that whether guys are new to the Vikings or just new to this type of defense, they have to catch on quickly. “It’s a physical defense,” he said. “it’s a tough defense. But when we all get on one accord, we can really do some big things.” Munnerlyn feels prepared to help Minnesota improve its coverage.
Will the outdoor games in a Minnesota winter pose a problem for the Alabama native? He doesn’t think so. “I had never seen much snow coming from Carolina, and now I’m in Minnesota,” Munnerlyn admitted. “But at the end of the day, it’s just football. I have to get used to it; I have to adapt to it; I have to get ready to play some football.”
On the Vikings’ unofficial depth chart released Tuesday morning, Munnerlyn stands slated as the No. 1 left cornerback. It is possible things could change between now and the regular season, but the CB plans to start come September. And the game he most looks forward to? Carolina, of course.
Minnesota will host the Panthers at TCF Bank stadium on Nov. 30, and Munnerlyn could not be more thrilled. “I can’t wait,” he said, smiling. “That’s the team that drafted me, and I was there for five years. I’m excited just to play those guys. [Also], I’m just excited to be in this division—great competition, great players, great quarterbacks—my goal is to win this division.”
On behalf of all Vikings fans… lead on, Captain.