Undrafted Free Agent Getting Run with Vikings 2nd-Teamers

Ivan Pace Jr. of Colerain shows the football after scoring a touchdown against St. X in the OHSAA DI Region 4 Playoffs at Colerain High School, Friday Nov. 2, 2018. © Michael Noyes for The Enquirer.

Welcome to Minnesota Vikings training camp, where every player looks fantastic, each man is on the cusp of a breakout season, and the team hopes to duck injuries.

Minnesota’s preseason schedule kicks off in two weeks at Seattle, so the next 14 days will be used to fine-tune operations before the exhibition bout.

Undrafted Free Agent Getting Run with Vikings 2nd-Teamers

Along the way, on the first day of practice, an interesting new Viking received run with second-teamers — undrafted free agent linebacker Ivan Pace Jr.

Agent Getting Run
Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports.

Pace Jr. was curiously undrafted in April, while most draft brains foresaw a mid-to-late round selection for the former Cincinnati Bearcat. But no such luck for Pace, and Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah scooped the defender from the UDFA wire soon after the event.

Why is Pace Jr.’s presence with second-teamers noteworthy? Simple — he could be the next man up behind starters Jordan Hicks and Brian Asamoah if injuries arise. And, make no mistake, those indeed happen at training camp.

Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports.

The aforementioned Hicks and Asamoah received snaps with the first team, an expected development among Vikings enthusiasts. But with the second-team, Minnesota signed veteran LB Troy Reeder this offseason, and as an experienced defender, he probably should’ve snagged a reservist job before Pace Jr.

Reeder, too, was on the field at camp, but Pace Jr.’s inclusion with the second team is a good omen for the 22-year-old.

Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports.

Pace Jr. started his college career at Miami (Ohio), where he spent his first three seasons. His first full season was in 2021, and he recorded 125 total tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 1 interception, and 1 forced fumble in 13 games. That fetched First-Team All-MAC kudos.

Then, he transferred to Cincinnati, his hometown, where he joined his brother. Once again, the raw numbers were impressive, as he produced 136 total tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss, 9 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. Pace made First-team All-AAC and was a unanimous All-American after his commendable season.

Vikings to Showcase
Minnesota Vikings Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center. Flores was hired in February 2023 to take over for Ed Donatel after Minnesota finished 30th in points allowed.

Height was the primary knock on Pace Jr. and perhaps caused the undrafted scenario. At 5’10” and 230 pounds, The Draft Network’s Brentley Weissman described Pace during the draft’s lead-up, “Pace is a heat-seeking missile who has a nose for the football. Pace aligns in the middle of the Bearcats’ defense and appears to be the one making the calls. He has outstanding instincts for the position and seems to know where the ball is going every single play.”

And if Pace Jr. remains with second-teamers, fans will see the heat-seeking stuff in living color this autumn.

Veteran Troy Dye also received action with the second team.

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 Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.