Troy Stoudermire has had a unique pro football journey since graduating from the University of Minnesota in May 2012, and now he’s made it back here as a free-agent signee with the Vikings.
Stoudermire signed with the Cincinnati Bengals as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2013 as a defensive back; there, he got his first experience working under then-defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, but he was released in training camp. He then went to the Canadian Football League, first spending the rest of 2013 on the Saskatchewan Roughriders practice roster, then joining the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2014. He played on offense, defense and special teams for Winnipeg. But he said that even though he had success there, he never thought he would make it back to Minnesota as a pro.
“Actually, me and my fiancée drove by [U.S. Bank Stadium] when I was playing in Canada,” Stoudermire said. “I was like, ‘Man, it would be great if I could play in that stadium.’ But I knew I had to go back to Canada. Being here is just awesome. It’s a great experience.”
Stoudermire played in only one preseason game for the Bengals, getting some action in the fourth quarter against the Tennessee Titans, before being released. He was asked if he could recall anything about Zimmer at that time.
“I never really got a chance to talk to Zimmer, but like from his demeanor you know he’s a real serious guy,” he said. “He wants things done his way, wants things done right. Never really got a chance to talk to him at Cincinnati but I heard he remembered me from Cincinnati. I was really shocked about that because he never really came and talked to me. But he’s a great coach, and I’m excited to play for him.”
Fond memories of Minnesota
Stoudermire was recruited to the Gophers by Tim Brewster, who was fired during Stoudermire’s junior season of 2010. Jerry Kill came in as coach that December.
“Kill was amazing,” said Stoudermire, who redshirted in 2011 due to a broken arm. “When he came in, he could have just got rid of all the seniors that were there, but he took me under his wing. He called me into his office and we talked for a really long time and he was just telling me how he was going to take care of me. He told me how he had heard bad things about me before he came in, but as things went on with the Gophers season he found out I was a really good kid. He put his wing around me and I respect Kill and I love him forever for that.”
He also had good things to say about Tracy Claeys, Kill’s successor as coach.
“Claeys is one of the best defensive coordinators I’ve ever had,” he said. “You know he’s a great coach, a player’s coach. He’ll tell you right up front that he never played football before, but if you listen to him you know you’re going to get things done the right way. I think the Minnesota Gophers are going in the right direction.”
One of the main reasons Stoudermire has been in pro football for the past three seasons is because of the multiple roles he played at the U, starting as a defensive back, moving to wide receiver and then back to defensive back, all while playing special teams.
That’s why he wasn’t surprised that the Vikings signed him to play receiver.
“When Eric Decker was playing with us at Minnesota, you know he was on one side and I was on the other side and Adam Weber was the quarterback,” Stoudermire said. “I learned a lot from Eric Decker, you know, about running routes and carrying myself as a professional both on and off the field.
“Obviously I switched to defense after he left and coming back here and being a receiver, it feels great. I’m so confident out there running my routes and I feel like I can win every time.”
Success in Canada
Stoudermire’s numbers last year in Winnipeg give an idea of how much he can bring to a football team.
He caught eight passes for 40 yards, returned 67 punts for 677 yards and a touchdown and had 47 kick returns for 963 yards. He also returned an interception 24 yards.
“There was one game where I had stats on all three phases of the game,” he said. “I had a few catches, a punt return for a touchdown and an interception on defense. It was pretty cool being out there.”
Is he happy to be here at receiver?
“Oh yeah most definitely, it’s just utilizing and just shows how fast I am how explosive I am and how much of an athlete I am,” Stoudermire said. “I think it just shows the coaches I’m here to help do whatever I can to help this team win. This team is already on the uprise, and I’m just here to add that extra piece, wherever it’s at.”
And how does it feel to be playing football in Minnesota again?
“I love these fans out here,” Stoudermire said. “I’ve been getting great messages from the fan and that’s a big confidence booster for me just to know these guys still remember me and they still love me. I just want to give them everything I have.”
• Vikings official Lester Bagley was asked how many entrances U.S. Bank Stadium will have. “We have five entrances plus the skyway, so there are four major gates with the major entry point being the Legacy Entry gate on the west side. That’s where we anticipate 60-plus percent of our fans will come in,” said Bagley, the team’s executive vice president of stadium development. “That’s the five glass pivoting doors that open, and we expect most of the people will come from that west side.” He added the skyway figures to get more use later in the season and during the playoffs, when the weather gets colder.
• Vikings owner Mark Wilf was asked how the extra money invested in the stadium will be on display when fans get to see the finished product. “I knew it was going to be special but when you see it in reality it’s super exciting,” said Wilf, also the team president. “The amazing features, the ETFE roof, the large glass pivoting doors, the big scoreboards, all the bells and whistles that we wanted to make sure the fans are going to get really came out extra special.”
• Twins General Manager Terry Ryan was asked how he goes about rebuilding a team that could wind up with the worst record in baseball. “We have to make some changes, there’s no doubt about that. Now getting out publicly and saying who’s going to end up staying and going and so forth, I don’t think that’s the right thing to do. But it’s obvious we have to make some changes here, and I’ll have to do that.”
• Perhaps it’s no surprise that the Vikings and not the Gophers are apparently getting all of the attention when it comes to selling season tickets this football season. While the Vikings are close to selling out U.S. Bank Stadium, the Gophers are down from 23,431 season tickets sold last year at this time to 20,142 at present. The student season-ticket sale to date also is down from 2,330 to 1,619. The Gophers will stage a promotional campaign to try to increase interest in their team.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and Sundays at 9:30 a.m. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org