The Vikings finalized a bold investment Saturday, locking up center John Sullivan for five more years and making it clear the 26-year-old center will be at the core of their rebuilding plans on the offensive line.
Sullivan, originally drafted in the sixth round out of Notre Dame in 2008, was due to become a free agent at season's end. Now, with a new deal in place reportedly worth $25 million, he is ecstatic to be secure in Minnesota for years to come.
"It's very humbling," Sullivan said Saturday. "I couldn't be any happier than I am. I look at the contract and what it says to me is that the Vikings have faith in what I can do and I'm going to be a Viking long-term."
The Vikings rank fourth in the NFL in rushing this season, averaging 145.6 yards per game. Sullivan has been a catalyst of that success, impressing the coaching staff throughout the season with his consistency and continued growth.
"We are very excited about the future of John Sullivan," coach Leslie Frazier said in a statement. "He has quickly become a leader among the offensive linemen. John is having an outstanding 2011 season, and he is a big part of why our rushing attack is near the top in the NFL. We are thrilled about having John as a member of the Minnesota Vikings for years to come."
Sullivan is equally thrilled and said he is eager to continue working with a coaching staff that includes offensive line coach Jeff Davidson, who Sullivan believes has been instrumental in his improvement.
"Our coaching staff on offense tries to put our offensive line in position where we can go out and play aggressively and really take it to teams in the run game," Sullivan said. "When you have backs like Adrian [Peterson] and Toby [Gerhart] and an offense that's designed to run the ball, it's great when the coaches take the reins off and don't make things overly complicated."
Sullivan's intelligence and work ethic has earned him respect throughout the organization. Now it has also earned him a lucrative deal that both parties hope will help lead to a turnaround.
"Quite honestly the main thing I'm happy about is that I'm going to be a Minnesota Viking long-term," Sullivan said. "That means the most of anything in this whole deal. This is the organization that drafted me and I owe them so much for that. And now they've put their faith in me to be their center for the long haul now. I couldn't be happier for that vote of confidence."