Zach Line knows his blocking and special-teams play will matter more than any touchdowns that he scores.
MANKATO – Zach Line understands his place these days as a grinder. Undrafted rookie. Fullback. NFL preseason. In a fight for a roster spot on a Vikings depth chart that includes Pro Bowler Jerome Felton.
This is not a glitz-and-glamour existence for the 23-year-old out of Southern Methodist, which made his postgame media scrum after Friday’s loss to Houston all the more apropos. Line was in a makeshift locker room at Mall of America Field, a corridor usually used for postgame news conferences but converted during the preseason into an overflow dressing room for hopefuls whose names aren’t known and whose NFL dreams will likely be dashed by Labor Day.
But in August in such rooms, hope always circulates. And on Friday, Line had caught his ray, circled by a quintet of reporters after he scored the Vikings’ only touchdown, a 61-yard reception that required 62 yards of rumbling after the catch.
Line had yet to shower. He had a dot of blood on his forehead and a gash across the bridge of his nose, closed earlier in the week by five stitches.
“This is proof to my fiancée that I’m doing something at training camp,” he joked.
And then came the question, asked in gest, that put Zach Line’s name in the same breath as Adrian Peterson’s. Line is No. 2 on the SMU career rushing list behind a guy named Eric Dickerson. That’s the same Eric Dickerson who still holds the NFL’s single-season rushing record at 2,105 yards in 1984, ahead of the 2,097 Peterson posted last season.
Line was asked if a comparison could be drawn.
“If you want,” he said with a serious tone. “But I’m not going to make that. Adrian’s a great runner. I had a good [college] career. But Adrian’s a different type of runner than me. He’s the MVP of the NFL. You can’t really compare me to that.”
The more important question was posed Sunday as the Vikings returned to practice. Coach Leslie Frazier was asked how Line could possibly find his way onto the team when final cuts are made. Frazier issued a reminder that Line’s fullback status renders that TD catch less important than his lead blocking, pass protection and special teams work.
“Now the catch and run he made Friday night is important, too,” Frazier said. “But we ask our fullbacks to be guys who can move people, and he will have to show that in this preseason. He needs to show that he can take on a blocker in the hole and move him.”
Line understands the steepness of this climb. He knows that, barring injury, Felton will be the lone fullback on the opening day roster. Tight end Rhett Ellison is another option there.
But while NFL jobs are tough to come by, they’re available in 31 other cities. So the Vikings aren’t the only ones currently evaluating Line.
“I’m committed to the Vikings,” Line said. “But I know that’s out there.”
Following Friday’s loss, Line went to Manny’s in downtown Minneapolis for a late dinner with his parents. His dad, a father of five, called Zach’s touchdown the sixth-greatest moment of his life.
Said Zach: “My dad was just ecstatic. ‘How many times does your son score a touchdown [in the NFL]?’ It’s kind of cool.”
The next night, Line was back into the grind, reviewing in detail all 21 plays he logged Friday — 14 on offense, seven on special teams. On Sunday, in one of the least enthusiastic team practices of camp, he regained the understanding that he’ll need to truly excel on special teams to have any shot at remaining a Viking into September.
Line continues to use Felton as a resource, knowing the journeyman-to-Pro Bowl wisdom available.
|San Diego||12/12/13 7:25 PM|
|Washington||12/15/13 12:00 PM|
|San Francisco||12/15/13 12:00 PM|
|Seattle||12/15/13 12:00 PM|
|Chicago||12/15/13 12:00 PM|
|Houston||12/15/13 12:00 PM|
|Buffalo||12/15/13 12:00 PM|
|New England||12/15/13 12:00 PM|
|Philadelphia||12/15/13 12:00 PM|
|Kansas City||12/15/13 3:05 PM|
|NY Jets||12/15/13 3:05 PM|
|Arizona||12/15/13 3:25 PM|
|New Orleans||12/15/13 3:25 PM|
|Green Bay||12/15/13 3:25 PM|
|Cincinnati||12/15/13 7:30 PM|
|Baltimore||12/16/13 7:40 PM|
|Chicago||59||4th Qtr 9:31|
|Detroit||90||4th Qtr 2:48|
|Philadelphia||90||4th Qtr 4:03|
|San Antonio||109||4th Qtr 0:30|
|Oklahoma City||99||4th Qtr 7:02|
|North Dakota St||73||FINAL|
|Canisius||45||2nd Half 10:19|
|Denver||43||2nd Half 15:13|
|Prairie View||28||2nd Half|
|New Mexico St||24||2nd Half|
|Weber State||26||2nd Half|
|Utah Valley U||33|
|Northwestern St||26||1st Half 4:26|
|Army||12/14/13 2:00 PM|
|(12) Penn State||79||FINAL|
|South Dakota St||83|
|Lewis-Clark State||25||2nd Half 16:08|
|Utah Valley U||41||2nd Half 13:18|
|CS-Bakersfield||2||1st Half 18:24|
|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||X||29-26|
|Dec 15 - vs. Philadelphia||Noon|
|Dec 22 - at Cincinnati||Noon|
|Dec 29 - vs. Detroit||Noon|