Patrick Reusse: Brandon Fusco shed blocks to become rock on Vikings offensive line

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 4, 2014 - 6:30 AM

The right guard from Slippery Rock will begin his third year as a Vikings starter.

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Brandon Fusco has come along way from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, earning a starting spot on the Vikings’ line despite not starting until his senior year in high school.

Photo: Charlie Neibergall, ASSOCIATED PRESS - AP

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Brandon Fusco played college football at Slippery Rock University in western Pennsylvania. The outcome of Slippery Rock’s football games has been a point of interest in stadiums of numerous major college teams through the decades.

“They announce our scores in a lot of places, but where Slippery Rock is a big deal is Michigan Stadium,” Fusco said.

Steve Filipiak was the public address announcer for the Michigan Wolverines’ home games in 1959. He was looking at the Western Union ticker for up-to-date scores to announce, saw a game involving Slippery Rock, and decided to announce it to the crowd.

There was a large reaction from the fans, and giving the Slippery Rock score has remained a tradition in the Big House — so much so, that “The Rock” was invited to play a home game there (against Shippensburg) in 1979 and drew a Division II record crowd of 61,143.

Slippery Rock also played Wayne State at the Big House in 1981 and will return this season on Oct. 18 to play Mercyhurst.

“I don’t hear as many Slippery Rock jokes as used to be the case, but people still find the name to be strange,” Fusco said. “It’s a nice little college town and western Pennsylvania … it’s still a great football area.”

Fusco will be starting at right guard for the Vikings in Sunday’s opener for the third consecutive season. He was in the lineup for 32 of 33 games in 2012 and 2013, missing only last December’s game with Philadelphia due to a knee injury.

Reliability leads to cohesion with an offensive line. The Vikings have had that since Matt Kalil was drafted fourth overall and Fusco moved into the lineup as a second-year player in 2012.

Left to right, Kalil, Charlie Johnson, John Sullivan, Fusco and Phil Loadholt started all 16 games (plus a playoff game) in 2012 and had one game missed apiece for Fusco, Loadholt and Johnson in 2013.

“This is our third year together,” Fusco said. “After that long, with the hard workers we have, you don’t miss a beat as far as knowing the other guys. John Sullivan is our leader … he calls the assignments, gets us going, and we take it from there.”

Fusco’s bio says he didn’t play football until his senior season at Seneca Valley High, a large suburban school north of Pittsburgh.

“That’s not true,” Fusco said. “I’ve played football since I was a kid. I just didn’t make the lineup until my senior year in high school.

“It’s kind of amazing. We’re one of the biggest schools in the area, and Don Barclay, who plays for the Packers, was our left tackle, and I was on the line, and we went 1-9.”

Fusco’s football future was vague until his high school coach dropped off a tape while on a visit to Slippery Rock. The coaches for The Rock — yup, that’s the athletic nickname — contacted Fusco and offered a partial scholarship.

He was a redshirt in 2006, started all 44 games at center in the next four seasons and wound up with an invitation to both the Senior Bowl and the NFL combine.

“I don’t know how the NFL found me,” Fusco said. “They say if you’re a good player, the scouts will find you.”

The Gene Upshaw Award as the Division II offensive lineman of the year assisted in the discovery, presumably.

The Vikings took Fusco with their third sixth-round selection in the 2011 draft. Only first-rounder Christian Ponder (now a No. 3 quarterback), second-rounder Kyle Rudolph (a standout tight end) and Fusco remain from that nine-player draft.

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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

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