Mike Priefer graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and flew helicopters as a Naval officer for six years before getting into coaching.
So it wasn't surprising when the Vikings new special teams coordinator mentioned toughness and discipline when asked about his coaching philosophy during a conference call last week.
"I think right from the get-go I'm going to talk to the team about wanting to be the toughest team on the field," Priefer said. "I'm a lot about toughness in all six phases, to be honest with you. Not just in the coverage phases, although that's probably where you show your most toughness is in the coverage phases.
"I'm going to talk about discipline. I'm an ex-military. Sometimes when the guys find that out, they don't understand what I mean by discipline, but it's more football discipline and making the right choices in terms of getting on the field and having great focus and awareness, not only in meetings, in walkthroughs, practices. Of course, everything carries over into the game. And then I talk about enthusiasm and passion for the game and then I'm going to talk about effort. Those are my four - toughness, discipline, effort, enthusiasm are my four buzzwords that I like to use a lot."
Priefer, whose father Chuck was a long-time NFL special teams coach, spent the past two seasons coaching the Denver Broncos special teams. He's also coached special teams for the Kansas City Chiefs, New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars.
He began his coaching career at his alma mater, Navy. Priefer talked about his military background.
"Well, being an ex-helicopter pilot, people thought I was crazy flying helicopters, and I think people think I'm crazy coaching special teams," he said. "It's all in a good way. I was fortunate enough to be a young division officer. I had 40-50 guys under my command, and I really learned how to deal with different personality types from different parts of the country and different type kids with different problems people had. It was just a great experience for a young guy. At the time I was only 25-26 years old. Those experiences have really carried over into the coaching realm."
Since the Vikings -- like many teams -- have had problems with Bears returner Devin Hester, Priefer also was asked whether he intends to kick the ball to Hester.
"I started having nightmares, to be honest with you," he said. "I think I really want to present that to the players. I hope we're kicking the ball well enough and punting the ball well enough and covering well enough that we can go down and cover a great player like him. He's the best in our business. I just think if you're fortunate to have good kicks and punts and the guys are playing hard and squeezing with leverage and all the other coaching points I use, I hope we can go down and cover a guy like that."