Ex-Vikings Defender Plots Comeback

Ex-Vikings Defender Plots Comeback
Oct 14, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive back George Iloka. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Do you remember the game at U.S. Bank Stadium in 2020 when the Minnesota Vikings looked lifeless against the then-hapless Atlanta Falcons?

The Vikings were embarrassed on their home field with no fans in attendance by the winless Falcons, a team that had just fired head coach Dan Quinn. Raheem Morris scooped 53 men off the dirt and coached them to triumph in Minneapolis.

Well, that was the last time former Vikings safety George Iloka played football.

Aug 24, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive back George Iloka. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Now, though, Iloka is plotting a comeback after 19 months of recovery, trying out this week with the Seattle Seahawks.

Iloka didn’t do much with the Vikings — signed as a “Mike Zimmer guy” a couple of times — but he was productive before his Minnesota adventure. He was a five-year starter in Cincinnati (two seasons with Zimmer) and joined the Vikings in 2018. Iloka also rejoined the Vikings in 2020 for a menial impact.

He was used primarily on special teams during the Vikings experiments, a departure from his old assignment with the Bengals.

And Iloka is evidently adaptable if Seattle is auditioning him as a linebacker, as the 32-year-old has played safety throughout his career.

Cincinnati Bengals free safety George Iloka. © Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer, Cincinnati Enquirer via Imagn Content Services, LLC.

A 5th-Round draft pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Iloka was at the peak of his powers with the 2017 Bengals, tallying a 71.8 grade from Pro Football Focus. Unless he breaks out with the Seahawks or someone else in 2022, that season was also his swan song as a starter.

In his career, Iloka has played 103 games, accruing 365 combined tackles, 10 tackles for loss, nine interceptions, and no sacks.

If Iloka is signed by the Seahawks, he’ll join a team most consider to be in a rebuilding mode. The precedent for former players making 53-man rosters after 19+ months away from the sport is minimal.

Iloka was selected eight picks before Minnesota chose Blair Walsh ten years ago in the draft.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

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