New Viking Gets the ‘Good Morning Football’ Treatment

Ivan Pace Jr. of Colerain High School wins boys athlete of the year award during their Sports Awards, sponsored by TriHealth, on Thursday, April 18, 2019, at Cincinnati Music Hall in Cincinnati. © Albert Cesare / The Enquirer.

An undrafted free-agent rookie isn’t supposed to command this much attention, not before any regular season games have transpired.

But it’s happening for Ivan Pace Jr., an off-ball linebacker signed by the Minnesota Vikings after the 2023 NFL Draft.

New Viking Gets the ‘Good Morning Football’ Treatment

Pace Jr. has stolen the show through two weeks [and change] of Vikings training camp — and is now getting praise from NFL Network’s Good Morning Football program.

Good Morning Football'
Cincinnati Bearcats linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. (0) jogs back to the locker room after pregame ceremonies recognizing seniors on the roster before the first quarter during a college football game against the Tulane Green Wave, Friday, Nov. 25, 2022, at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati. © Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK.

The Vikings defense plopped Pace Jr. with second-teamers during the first week of training camp, and by Week No. 2, the former Bearcat was running with the first team. Whoodathunkit?

Because of his size — he’s 5’11” — Pace Jr. received no love during April’s draft, leaving him available on the undrafted wire for the Vikings, as general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah made headlines by signing him and Army EDGE rusher Andre Carter II.

Sep 10, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Kennesaw State Owls running back Nykeem Farrow (3) runs with the ball against Cincinnati Bearcats linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. (0) in the first half at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports.

Amid Pace Jr.’s successful two weeks of camp, Good Morning Football’s Peter Schrager opined about the young defender, “Undrafted. Undersized. Just 230 pounds, he’s a heat-seeking missile. Talk to anyone there — he’s been one of the real standouts of Vikings camp.”

For now, Pace Jr. lives in a reservist role on Minnesota’s depth chart, but preseason games kick off this Thursday, and the Cincinnati alumnus could climb the roster even further.

Mar 1, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Cincinnati linebacker Ivan Pace, Jr. (LB23) speaks to the press at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.

“He’s out there in Minnesota right now. He’s quiet. He’s unassuming. He’s not someone who’s gonna say, ‘Look at me.’ But gosh — he is turning heads. The senior leader, the veteran guy in Minnesota, is Harrison Smith. And in an interview with our on-air personnel, he went out of his way to talk about Ivan Pace Jr,” Schrager concluded.

Smith said about the Vikings youngsters, particularly Pace, “That Thursday game, we’ll see some stuff against Seattle. But always, if you look at the draft, you look at some of the top picks, obviously [Jordan Addison], Mekhi [Blackmon] in the secondary is doing some good things. There’s a lot of guys, but I don’t want to name names. I’ll give you one under the radar: Ivan Pace — I think will show up on the Seattle tape and next week.”

Smith is six-time Pro Bowler and doesn’t have a history of hyping UDFAs just for kicks.

Sep 24, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. (0) runs onto the field prior to the game against the Indiana Hoosiers at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports.

In front of Pace Jr. on the Vikings depth chart, Jordan Hicks, Brian Asamoah, Troy Dye, and Troy Reeder reign — for now. His summer is translating rapidly to ‘Mr. Mankato’ kudos, and he could find routine regular season defensive snaps in September or October.

And the Vikings need all the help available to improve; the club ranked 30th last year per points allowed to opponents.

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).

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