6-Time Eagles Pro Bowler Praises Ivan Pace

Ivan Pace Jr.
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings search for bright spots amid a 1-4 record to start the 2023 season, and one can be found on defense.

6-Time Eagles Pro Bowler Praises Ivan Pace

He’s Ivan Pace, an undrafted free-agent rookie who joined the club from the University of Cincinnati. Early returns suggest Pace is the real deal, and his peers have acknowledged it.

Praises Ivan
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports.

Six-time Pro Bowler Jason Kelce was the latest to call out Pace’s budding greatness, as the offensive lineman probably saw Pace front and center a few weeks ago when his Philadelphia Eagles toppled the Vikings.

“Ivan Pace, former Bearcat, one of the inside linebackers. Dude, we played against him, I’m not kidding ya, that dude is a freaking beast. He is all over the place, quick twitch, a little bit smaller but doesn’t play like it,” Kelce told his brother Travis, the man dating Taylor Swift.

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The Vikings and the team’s fans realized in July and August that Pace could stand out as early as Year One, and when the regular season arrived, they weren’t wrong.

“I tried to talk to him after the game. He big-timed me he went back in, didn’t get a chance to talk to him after the game,” Jason Kelce comically added.

Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce speaks with the media after the first day of training camp at the NovaCare Complex in Philadelphia on July 26, 2023. © Justin Robertson / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Pace has accrued a 76.8 Pro Football Focus grade through five games, ranking 10th-best around the league among all off-ball linebackers. His teammate, Jordan Hicks, has recorded an 80.9 score, good enough for seventh-best in the NFL.

The Vikings were not shy about adding Pace to the defense immediately. On the team’s initial depth chart, second-year linebacker Brian Asamoah was supposed to start, but it became clear and evident in the first two games that Pace, not Asamoah, was “the guy” opposite Hicks in the middle of the field.

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

Pace owned a 3rd-to-5th Round grade heading into April’s draft, but curiously, no general manager, including Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, took the plunge on any of the draft’s three days. Instead, Adofo-Mensah sprinted to the UDFA wire to grab Pace soon after the event, also adding EDGE rusher Andre Carter from Army, who similarly made the active roster.

Of course, Vikings fans wish a winning record would accompany Pace’s swift ascension to prominence, but not much has gone right for the purple team. It leads the NFL in giveaways, and the schedule has been relentless.

Pace has +4,000 odds to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award, a change from +10,000 when the season kicked off.

Pace will turn 23 in two months.


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.

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