Undrafted Minnesota Vikings Rookie Zach Line Talks Making the Team
23-year old Zach Line is trying to land a spot with the Minnesota Vikings after he was passed over numerous times in the 2013 NFL Draft. In his first game, the former Southern Methodist star made a mark on the Vikings, scoring the team’s only touchdown on his very first reception of his career. Line caught Matt Cassel’s pass, and went the distance, shaking off defenders for a 61-yard touchdown reception.
In college, Line was used to running, and scoring touchdowns. He broke Eric Dickerson’s school rushing record at SMU, and tied Dickerson for most rushing touchdowns in his career. As a senior, Line rushed for 1,278 yard on 277 attempts while scoring 13 touchdowns. For his hard work on the football field, Line was named to the Conference-USA first team, as well as the conference offensive player of the year.
Yet, as an accomplished collegiate player, Line was passed over four or five times in 2013 NFL Draft before finding a home with the Minnesota Vikings. Now, the undrafted rookie is making a transition from the running back position to the fullback position with the Vikings.
On July 31 at Vikings Training Camp in Mankato, Minnesota, I caught up with Zach and asked him a few questions about how he adjusting to his new job with the Vikings.
How can you translate your success at Southern Methodist to the NFL?
“The characteristics through my playing days at SMU, and at high school and now the NFL have always been built off hard work, and paying attention to detail. I’ve never been the fastest, or strongest, but I’ve always found a way to win in whatever position I’m in. My practice habits will payoff the same way they did at SMU.”
What do you have to improve upon?
“I definitely have to improve upon the fullback position as a whole. I’ve never played it before. Maybe a little bit in high school. Since being at SMU, I’ve been in the spread offense, in the gun, not in the I-formation, or with my hand on the ground. So, I have to adjust to staying low, and finishing blocks.”
How different is the running back position from the fullback position?
“I feel running back dictates the flow of the rushes better. Whereas, at fullback, you have to butt up a linebacker to save your running back. There’s not much difference. You’re guiding the running back most of the time to the hole, so you have to see where the lanes are. So, as far as not having the ball in your hand, (which is a given), I can definitely say you don’t have control of the flow anymore.”
How difficult was to keep waiting and getting passed over at the NFL Draft?
“The draft experience was tough, you knows as I had expectations of being drafted. I had phone calls saying I was going to be drafted in that round, and that happened quite a few times. So that got pretty old. My family was there for me, and they didn’t care either way as long as I ended up somewhere. I wanted to get drafted, (now that you look back at it, it was just for pride), but I’m on a team, and I’m happy where I’m at. That’s all that really matters.”
How many times did you get passed over?
“4 or 5 times teams called me and said they were going to take me and ended up taking someone else.”
What teams called you?
“There was a few later on, the Jets were the earliest team.”
What teams called you after the draft and why did you choose the Vikings?
“I had free agency offers from Pittsburgh, Tennesse, Minnesota, New Orleans, Dallas and Houston. I thought the Vikings were a team on the rise; good organization, and good history. I do like the power offense, and I ran it in high school. I like the pound the rock theory, too. The coaches seemed to like me in the phone calls that we had and I just thought it was a good fit here.
What advice would you give to future players that ended up getting passed over at the draft?
“You have to have one step in the clear. It’s the same thing as in a game, you cant dwell on it for too long. You’re on a team; 99.9% of people aren’t on an NFL team that played college football. I mean its not an easy task that you get a free agency spot. I’m blessed to be where I’m at, and I’d say you have to move on and play football.”
As Line was passed over at the draft, he is now trying to make the most of his opportunity at training camp with the Vikings in Mankato.
Hows your practices been going?
“I’ve been getting a lot of reps. It’s good to see the practices on film because film doesn’t lie and it shows you where you need to improve, and so the first couple days of pads have been helpful.”
What do you have to do to make Vikings?
“Making the team is all up to the coach, but all I can do is not give them a reason not to cut me. I have got to play special teams, and to continue to get better at fullback and that’s what I’m trying to do each day.”
Lastly, as Line strives to make the Vikings, he is taking on a new position and he has been learning from his veteran teammate, Jerome Felton.
Have any Vikings players given you advice?
“I go to Jerome Felton for a lot for advice on fullback because he’s been doing it for years now, and I haven’t. So, you want to go to the wise man about it, and he’s been very helpful.”
Line is just an undrafted rookie for the Vikings, but is ready to prove he belongs in the NFL for the Vikings.