Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


A closer look: sixth-rounder Brandon Fusco

Posted by: under Vikings, NFL draft, John Sullivan, Vikings draft Updated: May 6, 2011 - 9:49 AM

Note: With the NFL draft complete, we'll spend the next four days taking a closer look at six of the Vikings' third-day picks. Today we profile sixth-round pick Brandon Fusco, a center from Division II Slippery Rock.

Brandon Fusco didn’t start playing football until his junior year at Seneca Valley High School in Pennsylvania. Why the late start?

“I wasn’t really into sports that much,” Fusco said. “Sophomore year, didn’t really do nothing and football just kind of came to my attention. I always watched it on TV and I sometimes got into a ticked off mood so I wanted to get out on the field and take my frustrations out on people.”

Who would have guessed that start to his football career would ultimately lead to the NFL. The Vikings selected the Slippery Rock center in the sixth round this past Saturday.

Fusco (6-4, 306 pounds) was a three-time Division II All-American and won the Gene Upshaw Lineman of the Year award for Division II this past season. Fusco became the first player in Slippery Rock history to participate in the Senior Bowl.

“Fusco was a great pick I think as an upside guy from a small college,” Vikings vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman said. “He’s a very good athlete and the one thing you like about him is his demeanor and how he plays the game. You saw some of the rawness in him coming from Slippery Rock and all of a sudden start blocking the guys down at the Senior Bowl. But Jeff Davidson, our offensive line coach, did a personal workout with him and came back and had rave reviews about him.”

Fusco sounded like a character during a brief conference call with reporters after he was drafted. He was asked how he ended up at Slippery Rock.

“I really wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school,” he said. “I was about 6-4, 240 pounds, real skinny, built like a pencil, didn’t take the weight room as seriously as I do now. Schools weren’t really recruiting me. It was Division II schools. The biggest look I had was Youngstown State and that was a walk-on job. Slippery Rock came to my house and I felt I really connected with the coaching staff.”

He also was asked about his ticked off quote regarding how he got started with football. [Disclaimer: He used a different version of the phrase "ticked off" that we changed slightly for blog purposes.]

“I think I get it from my dad,” he said. “He has a temper on him. I mean, I’m not like a ticked off kid but people tick me off and I like to take it out on people on the field.”

Fusco knew he faced some obstacles in the draft process coming from a small school. He needed to perform well against prospects from Division I schools in order to show teams he can compete and hold his own against tougher competition.

“I played good at the Senior Bowl,” he said. “I could have played a lot better but I think what really opened a lot of people’s eyes was the combine. I had really good numbers and I really showed a lot of people my athleticism. I think the combine helped me really boost my stock.”

Fusco described himself as a physical player who loves to run block.

“I love to get after it,” he said.

Fusco started all 44 games of his college career at center, but he said he also can play guard.

“I think I have the athleticism to play any position in the NFL, the guard, tackle, or center,” he said. “Evidently the Vikings liked me a lot. If it has to be center, I’ll play center. If it’s to play guard, tackle, whatever. I think I have very good feet, good size. I think I can fit any way with the Vikings.”

Fusco should give the line some depth and create competition for John Sullivan and Jon Cooper at center.

“I’m going to be coming in and competing with those guys and I feel confident in my game,” Fusco said. “I think if I just learn the system, get used to this level, I think I can be pushing for a starting job soon.”

 

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