Vikings Rookie Grabs Prestigious Honor

2 Vikings Snatch
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

It’s no longer just your eye test suggesting Minnesota Vikings linebacker Ivan Pace is the real deal.

The undrafted rookie now has an NFL award to back it up.

Vikings Rookie Grabs Prestigious Honor

Pace won the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Week award, as The Athletic‘s Alec Lewis tweeted Wednesday, “Vikings undrafted rookie LB Ivan Pace Jr. was named NFC defensive player of the week for his performance against the Raiders. Had 13 tackles, a sack and a pick. He and DeMeco Ryans are the only two rookies to have 13 tackles, a sack and an INT in a single game since 1994.”

Grabs Prestigious
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.

Week 14 was magnificent for Pace — from start to finish. He will be remembered for his game-sealing interception and backflip, and rightfully so, but the man was a tyrant from the game’s onset. And now he’ll have NFC Defensive Player of the Week hardware to show for it.

Pace’s performance at Las Vegas served as his 2023 signature to date, and that’s especially impressive because Pace has played wonderfully all season.

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According to Pro Football Focus, Pace is the NFL’s 13th-best off-ball linebacker through 14 games, notably outpacing defenders like Bobby Wagner and Foyesade Oluokun. He’s also PFF’s top rookie linebacker — by several miles.

Pace was assumed to be drafted anywhere from Round 3 to 5 last April, but NFL general managers were evidently turned off by his size — he’s about two inches shorter than a normal off-ball linebacker. Expressing bafflement about clubs not signing on his dotted line until after the draft, Pace posted to Instagram a picture of himself in April with the Vikings logo and a caption for the rest of the world, “Y’all done f-cked up.”

He knew all along that his talent would translate to the NFL — silly height reservations be damned.

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports.

Pace’s duties also increased in recent weeks after veteran linebacker Jordan Hicks was diagnosed with compartment syndrome. Pace took over the Hicks role in Brian Flores’ suddenly lethal defense, and generally speaking, Minnesota’s defense hasn’t slowed. That should be a tricky task for a normal rookie linebacker and unbelievably daunting for an undrafted commodity.

Pace told reporters following the Vikings victory, “I got that dog in me, man. That’s all I have to say. I haven’t ever been surprised. I know how good I am. I’ve been showing the world since I was young that I was good. Now I’m here in the league and still proving it.”

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.

Meanwhile, Pace returns to his hometown this Saturday for a game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

“I don’t know if any of y’all saw, but I said all y’all F’d up when they didn’t draft me, and I’m showing them,” Pace added about his now award-winning outing.

Pace is on pace for 89 tackles as a rookie.

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