Nick Vigil was 10 when his mother, Kayla, determined that a career in football was a safer option for her rodeo-loving sons.
Nick's older brother, Zach, who was 12 at the time, got thrown from a bull in what's been remembered by some in the family as a terribly scary accident.
"It wasn't that bad," countered Nick Vigil, the linebacker who finally signed a one-year, $1.75 million deal with the Vikings on Tuesday.
"He fell on his head. They thought he had a broken neck. But he didn't. He was fine. He had a couple scares before that, but after that one, my mom told my dad, 'No more rodeos.'"
The boys often were away with their father, Jamie, at rodeos when football practices were taking place. They started out riding sheep — "mutton busting" — before moving on to bulls on the rodeo circuit near they home in Plain City, Utah.
"They're just like miniature bulls," Nick said Tuesday. "Not full grown."
Mom didn't care. So football got bumped up a spot to the boys' favorite activity.
Zach and Nick ended up playing alongside each other as linebackers at Utah State. Zach was bigger and stronger, Nick faster and quicker. Zach left school as the career leader in tackles for loss (43½). Nick left ranked third (38½).
Zach went undrafted and played two years for the Dolphins and two years in Washington. Nick, a 6-2, 235-pounder, was a third-round pick of the Bengals in 2016. He played four years in Cincinnati and last season with the Chargers.
Nick had two starts in 15 games with the Chargers. Playing in a 3-4 defense, he had 50 tackles, three for losses, two sacks, one pass defensed, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.
He ended up in Minnesota because he played under Paul Guenther, Mike Zimmer's protégé and successor as Bengals defensive coordinator in Cincinnati. Guenther replaced Zimmer in 2014, using the same 4-3 system, and coached Vigil in 2016 and '17. Guenther is now a defensive assistant for the Vikings.
"I played all three [linebacker] positions," Vigil said. "My versatility is something that can help the team out. Whatever they need along with special teams. I've played a lot of special teams. Whatever can help the team, I'm good with."
He is looking forward to returning to a 4-3 defense he's more comfortable with. His best season came in 2019 when he started all 16 games and ranked second among Bengals defenders with 111 tackles.
"You play a lot of different coverages in this defense," he said. "You got to be able to do quite a bit of different things. You got to be a smart player. You have to be able to think and diagnose very fast. You have to be technique-sound because you do a lot of different stuff. I think that plays to my strengths."
He's also one of the few NFL players who's thankful he ended up taking the path toward a safer career option.
"I'd say bull-riding is more dangerous," Vigil said. "Those guys get beat up pretty good."
Dozier gains biggest salary boost
Left guard Dakota Dozier, who struggled in his first season as a full-time starter, topped the 71 Vikings who received a portion of the team's $8.5 million allotment from the NFL's performance-based pay program.
Dozier, the only Viking who didn't miss an offensive snap the entire season, had his pay boosted by $561,951 because of playing time.
The leaguewide payouts were created by the NFL and the players' union to reward players who outperform their contracts. Because of the leaguewide losses in revenue because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pay is being deferred until 2024.
Rounding out the top five among Vikings players from 2020 were starting right tackle Brian O'Neill ($461,925); starting defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo ($362,983), now with the Giants; defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson ($338,580), a free agent; and tight end Tyler Conklin ($315,733).
O'Neill also finished second among Vikings in 2019 at $441,753.
Checking in 53rd among Vikings players this year was quarterback Kirk Cousins, whose salary was bumped $28,856 to $21,000,002.