Todd Downing grew up in Minnesota, played football at Eden Prairie High and attended the University of Minnesota. He now serves as quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders, overseeing the development of Derek Carr, a coaching journey that started as an intern in the Vikings public relations de Chad Ostlund partment. The Star Tribune's Chip Scoggins chatted with Downing by phone this week leading up to Sunday's game against his hometown team.
Q You played quarterback for Mike Grant at Eden Prairie?
A Yeah, he actually gave me my start in coaching. I coached quarterbacks at Eden Prairie while I was going to the University of Minnesota. After I finished up at Eden Prairie I gave some thought to going to St. John's or Concordia (St. Paul). But I ended up giving up playing and went to the University of Minnesota and started coaching with Mike at Eden Prairie.
Q What kind of quarterback were you at Eden Prairie?
A Let's just go with intelligent because there aren't any other good adjectives I can give you [laughing]. We found out quickly that it was going to be limited shelf life for my playing days.
Q How did you get connected with the Vikings?
A In the process of going through Eden Prairie football, this guy named Chad Ostlund [Vikings official] and I got to know each other over the years. I had a long talk with Mike [Tice]. He knew I had a passion for the X's and O's of the game. He asked if I wanted to get involved with an internship with the Vikings through Chad. So Chad gave me a start really as an operations intern, if you will. I was helping pick up family members of Red McCombs and driving people around when they came into town to visit. Doing special projects, relabeling all the Beta tapes in the film room.
Q What has it been like to work with Derek Carr?
A He's a wonderful person beyond football, so he's easy to be around. He's a very talented quarterback. So it's exciting to walk into work every day knowing you have a kid who has the tools and the desire and is a great person who is going to bring the right attitude every day. The running joke around here is I tell people that I think I could tell him to throw the ball lefthanded this week and he'd give it a try.
Q When you started at the bottom with Vikings, did you ever imagine you'd be at this level of coaching?
A Honestly, my aspirations are to be a head coach someday, but I believe in the process. I don't look forward. I don't try and say, 'Well, I want to be here by this time.' I live in the moment and try and be the best I can at the role I'm given.