The 2011 sixth-round draft choice from little-heralded Slippery Rock brings skills and a fierce competitive spirit.
Football fans might ridicule a player whose college is listed as Slippery Rock, but the Vikings could have a starting guard from that Division II school this season in Brandon Fusco.
Fusco lettered in just two seasons of high school football and wasn't offered any Division I scholarships. But Slippery Rock has a great history of developing offensive linemen, having produced five consecutive D-II All-Americans at center, with Fusco the fifth. He also was named the Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year his senior season.
Fusco said the Slippery Rock campus in Pennsylvania was a half-hour from his home, and when the coaches visited him there, it felt like the right move.
"The coaches came to my house and it felt like they were family," Fusco said.
His relative lack of size and experience at the time limited the scope of schools looking to offer him a scholarship.
"I think the biggest look I had was Youngstown State and Morehead State, two Division I-AA schools, but those were both walk-on jobs," Fusco said.
According to offensive line statistics released by the Vikings after draft night in 2011, over the course of his career at Slippery Rock, Fusco notched 332 knockdowns along with 42 touchdown-resulting blocks and 28 blocks down field.Making an impression
Fusco was the first player from Slippery Rock to be invited to the Senior Bowl and he was invited to the NFL scouting combine. He ran the fourth-fastest 20-yard shuttle for offensive lineman at 4.43 seconds, and he was third in the three-cone drill at 7.29 seconds. The Vikings selected him early in the sixth round, 172nd overall.
There are currently two other Slippery Rock players in the NFL, cornerback Andre Freeman of the Steelers and receiver Devin Goda of the Ravens, both rookie free agents this season. Fusco remains only the fifth player drafted out of Slippery Rock, and the highest selection in school history.
Fusco admits he was surprised, but not shocked, when the Vikings drafted him.
"I was a good player at my college," he said. "I mean, it was obviously a good goal of mine and I thought I was a draftable player. I wasn't shocked. I know my game and I was confident. You know, there's some good players in Division II -- but not as good as Big Ten schools, but still, good competition. I obviously dominated to get here but I've seen some good players."
The lack of offers from bigger schools didn't hurt Fusco.
"I had a great offensive line coach [Joe Walton] at Slippery Rock. I wouldn't regret anything, I enjoyed my four years there. I don't regret it at all going to Slippery Rock," he said.
Fusco got in four games last year, but he said he was nervous the first time he entered a pro game.
"I was shaking when I saw Anthony [Herrera] go out. I believe my first game was the Packers. [I] came in, and like I said, I had butterflies that first play. I think I remember it was an outside zone to the left and I had to reach [linebacker] A.J. Hawk on the second level and I got him pretty good. I was feeling good after that."
It was a huge adjustment from Division II to the NFL.
"Oh it was a lot different, a lot faster, quicker, stronger guys. It took me a good half-a-year to get used to it, and I feel right now that I'm very confident and everything is slowing down for me," Fusco said.
Fusco has a confidence about him that the Vikings coaches like.
"I can't say I'm an experienced veteran, but I've got some games under my belt. I've improved a lot. I had a very good offseason lifting-wise, a good trainer back in Pittsburgh," he said. "These guys [at Winter Park], I came up here a couple weeks early, and these guys are working just as hard as back home. I'm excited about this year and had a really good offseason. I feel in real good shape, probably the best shape I've ever been in."
Fusco wants to keep playing for a long time and then perhaps coach, but he majored in health and safety management at college.
"I love the game, so I want to stick around as much as I can," he said. "I plan on coaching and if not use my major, become a safety manager for a company or something along those lines."
The fans might laugh when they announce a player from Slippery Rock at the draft, but ask the coaches, and they will tell you that Fusco can play.Gophers recruit
The Gophers football team is reported to have its second commitment for 2013 in Alex Mayes, a 6-5, 280-pound offensive lineman from Van Alstyne, Texas. Mayes made his second visit at the Gophers football clinic last weekend, along with his brother Connor, a high school junior who is a 6-5, 338-pound tackle. Also, GopherIllustrated.com reported that the team got a third commitment in Beaver Dam, Wis., defensive end Owen Salzwedel.Jottings
• Nobody will be more excited than Lou and Francine Nanne if their grandson, Louie Nanne of Edina, is picked in the NHL draft. He is rated 188th, but those ratings mean nothing.
• Recommended for attending is the Father/Son Basketball Camp put on by the Gophers coaching staff on June 29-30. I've watched Tubby Smith put it on, and it's worthwhile. Call the Gophers basketball office at 612-625-3085 for particulars.
• Willie Burton, the Gophers basketball great from 1986 to 1990 who went on to the NBA, is back at the U working on his degree 22 years after his collegiate career ended.
• Competing in the highly rated National Basketball Players Association camp last week were two local players: Kyle Washington, who spent three years at Benilde-St. Margaret's before transferring to the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut, and Cooper star Rashad Vaughn, who is being recruited by as many colleges as Apple Valley's Tyus Jones, who made the USA U-17 team that will play in the World Tournament in Lithuania.
• Wally Ellenson, the Rice Lake, Wis., basketball player joining the Gophers this fall, is also a great high jumper, winning the Wisconsin Division 1 state championship with a leap of 7 feet, 1 inch, the highest high school mark in the country this year and just short of being an Olympics qualifier. "Tubby Smith is going to allow Wally to compete with our track team," Gophers track coach Steve Plasencia said. "There aren't five better high school high jumpers in the country." And Ellenson, who is competing in basketball this summer in the Howard Pulley League, has a high school freshman brother named Henry to whom Smith has already offered a scholarship.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. • email@example.com
|Minnesota||12/8/13 12:00 PM|
|Kansas City||12/8/13 12:00 PM|
|Buffalo||12/8/13 12:00 PM|
|Miami||12/8/13 12:00 PM|
|Detroit||12/8/13 12:00 PM|
|Indianapolis||12/8/13 12:00 PM|
|Cleveland||12/8/13 12:00 PM|
|Oakland||12/8/13 12:00 PM|
|Atlanta||12/8/13 12:00 PM|
|Tennessee||12/8/13 3:05 PM|
|St. Louis||12/8/13 3:25 PM|
|Seattle||12/8/13 3:25 PM|
|NY Giants||12/8/13 3:25 PM|
|Carolina||12/8/13 7:30 PM|
|Dallas||12/9/13 7:40 PM|
|San Diego||12/12/13 7:25 PM|
|Denver||16||1st Qtr 3:47|
|LA Clippers||6:30 PM|
|Golden State||7:00 PM|
|Pittsburgh||1||1st Prd 10:10|
|Buffalo||0||1st Prd 11:03|
|Toronto||1||1st Prd 13:48|
|Florida||0||1st Prd 6:05|
|Winnipeg||1||1st Prd 13:19|
|Nashville||0||1st Prd 8:01|
|New Jersey||6:30 PM|
|NY Islanders||9:30 PM|
|SE Missouri St||74||FINAL|
|North Dakota St||66||FINAL|
|East Tenn St||57||FINAL|
|Mount St Marys||70|
|Long Beach State||66||FINAL|
|William & Mary||63||FINAL|
|Fla Gulf Coast||61||FINAL|
|Central Conn St||56||FINAL|
|Miss Valley St||89|
|J&W-Charlotte||58||2nd Half 3:11|
|Ga Southern||65||2nd Half 7:45|
|Florida A&M||37||2nd Half 17:44|
|Ohio||35||2nd Half 14:00|
|Iowa State||43||2nd Half 12:16|
|Bethune-Cookman||31||2nd Half 12:00|
|Villanova||50||2nd Half 16:05|
|San Jose St||45||2nd Half 12:07|
|South Alabama||49||2nd Half 10:30|
|North Dakota||26||2nd Half 15:12|
|Sam Houston St||32|
|Wagner||12||1st Half 8:51|
|Stetson||19||1st Half 7:46|
|Greensboro||6||1st Half 10:25|
|Binghamton||15||1st Half 9:56|
|UNC Greensboro||11||1st Half 9:01|
|Fair-Dickinson||18||1st Half 7:46|
|Dartmouth||9||1st Half 12:18|
|Hawaii||13||1st Half 11:12|
|Holy Cross||13||1st Half 10:13|
|Columbia||18||1st Half 6:37|
|UAB||23||1st Half 7:43|
|Pacific||16||1st Half 9:56|
|North Florida||6:30 PM|
|Oral Roberts||7:00 PM|
|Central Mich||7:00 PM|
|Grace Bible||7:00 PM|
|TX-San Antonio||7:00 PM|
|Southern U||7:00 PM|
|Indiana State||7:00 PM|
|Saint Louis||7:05 PM|
|Cal State Fullerton|
|St Katherine||8:00 PM|
|Utah Valley U|
|Walla Walla||8:05 PM|
|Sacramento St||8:05 PM|
|James Madison||8:15 PM|
|Stephen F Austin|
|Santa Clara||9:00 PM|
|Washington St||9:00 PM|
|New Mexico St||10:00 PM|
|(16) Northern Ill||27|
|(6) Oklahoma State||24|
|(5) Missouri||42||4th Qtr 13:50|
|So Florida||6:30 PM|
|(7) Stanford||6:45 PM|
|(11) Arizona State|
|(20) Duke||7:00 PM|
|(1) Florida State|
|(2) Ohio State||7:17 PM|
|(10) Michigan State|
|Utah State||9:00 PM|
|(24) Fresno State|
|Army||12/14/13 2:00 PM|
|Real Salt Lake||1||2ndOT 5:00|
|Sporting Kansas City||1|
|Long Beach St||72|
|(4) Notre Dame||90|
|Miss Valley St||59||FINAL|
|Davis & Elkins||0||Postponed|
|South Dakota St||66||FINAL|
|VA of Lynchburg||32||FINAL|
|No Dakota State||69|
|Utah Valley U||64||FINAL|
|Mount St Marys||65|
|San Jose St||99||FINAL|
|SE Missouri St||58||FINAL|
|Louisiana||23||2nd Half 9:31|
|Austin Peay||15||1st Half 10:10|
|Miami-Ohio||24||1st Half 6:25|
|Wright State||20||1st Half 9:09|
|MD-Eastern Shore||9||1st Half 7:42|
|South Dakota||6:00 PM|
|SD Mines & Tech|
|Illinois||13||1st Half 13:37|
|(23) Texas A&M|
|Appalachian St||7:00 PM|
|Alabama State||7:00 PM|
|Northwestern St||7:00 PM|
|New Mexico St||8:00 PM|
|Aug 9 - vs. Houston||7 pm||X||27-13|
|Aug 16 - at Buffalo||6 pm||X||20-16|
|Aug 25 - at San Francisco||7 pm||X||34-14|
|Aug 29 - vs. Tennessee||7 pm||X||24-23|
|2013 regular season|
|Sep 8 - at Detroit||Noon||X||34-24|
|Sep 15 - at Chicago||Noon||X||31-30|
|Sep 22 - vs. Cleveland||Noon||X||31-27|
|Sep 29 - vs. Pittsburgh (in London)||Noon||X||34-27|
|Oct 6 - Bye|
|Oct 13 - vs. Carolina||Noon||X||35-10|
|Oct 21 - at. NY Giants||7:40 pm||X||23-7|
|Oct 27 - vs. Green Bay||7:30 pm||X||44-31|
|Nov 3 - at Dallas||Noon||X||27-23|
|Nov 7 - vs. Washington||7:25 pm||X||34-27|
|Nov 17 - at Seattle||3:25 pm||X||41-20|
|Nov. 24 - at Green Bay||Noon||26-26|
|Dec 1 - vs. Chicago||Noon||X||23-20|
|Dec 8 - at Baltimore||Noon|
|Dec 15 - vs. Philadelphia||Noon|
|Dec 22 - at Cincinnati||Noon|
|Dec 29 - vs. Detroit||Noon|