Jerick McKinnon is one of the smallest players on the field, but that certainly doesn't stop him from being a dynamic player on the gridiron. At 5-foot-9, 216 pounds, McKinnon isn't the prototypical 'ground-and-pound' running back, but he has the skills and shiftiness to knock a defenders cleats off.
The Vikings selected McKinnon in the third round of the NFL draft out of Georgia Southern. McKinnon wasn't a well-known prospect entering the draft and the selection surprised many who follow the Vikings closely. GM Rick Spielman was beguiled by his insane athletic ability and decided to pull the trigger early in the draft. Early in training camp, McKinnon has shown the tendency to cut smooth and burst down the field with superior speed in the second-level of the defense.
McKinnon is loving training camp in the NFL and looks forward to working with the veterans on the team to become the best possible football player on the field.
"It's been a great pleasure to be out here everyday with all of these great athletes and to come to work. It's the best job you could have. Living out your dream and on top of that in my position, just coming to work with the best in the game and not just AP, but Matt [Asiata], Joe [Banyard], Zach [Line] Jerome [Felton], so it's just a blessing," McKinnon said.
McKinnon is waiting to see his role in the offense, but will be ready when he is called upon to make an impact during the season. He is sure his dynamic skill-set will be used as a threat in Norv Turner's offensive scheme. Right now, he is trying to learn from the veterans, while working hard to become the best possible athlete on the field.
"I'm excited to see how it is going to play out. I really don't know what role I'll be placed into right now, but my role is just to come in and get better everyday as a rookie and learn from all of these other guys who have been in this league for five plus years and take as much as I can from them," McKinnon explained.
McKinnon is trying to quickly transition from a small Division I program at Georgia Southern to the NFL. Hewas a dual threat in college and played quarterback, running back, and defensive back at Georgia Southern. McKinnon indicated the style of the offense has been the biggest adjustment and he is just trying to become more familiar with playing running back on a full-time basis.
"Besides just the style of the offense, I'd probably say just say overall, becoming a young mature running back because I've never really been singled out to one position," McKinnon added.
The Vikings are looking to place McKinnon in the best situation for him to make plays, while using his athletic skill-set on the field. It appears the team will be using him in specific situations as a returner on special teams. Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer has indicated that he likes what McKinnon can bring to the table as a returner, but they are still attempting to find the right mix on kickoff and punt returns. McKinnon hasn't experienced any role on special teams in the past, but he really wants to contribute on the field as much as possible.
"If I get the chance to, yes, I'm definitely excited. Anytime you get the chance to play, not just as a rookie, but period, it's always a blessing and it's a great opportunity. I'm just looking for the opportunity and hopefully I'll make the most of it," McKinnon said.
McKinnon will be working with running backs coach Kirby Wilson as he tries quickly mature as a running back in this league. Jerick likes Wilson's attention to detail and his willingness to put all his energy into producing the best running backs on the field.
"[Wilson] brings a lot of positive energy. He's really into detail like the rest of the offensive coaches about assignments and doing your job. He worked with a lot of great running backs, so the experience and knowledge, and every time he talks you are bound to listen, because you know he knows what he is talking about. He has been in the game for a long time, so I just try to dial in when he speaks and take as much as I can and not just hear what he saying, but listen to what he is saying," McKinnon explained.
When I asked McKinnon about his favorite element this coaching staff brings to the table, he continued to echo the tune of many players on this team. Jerick reiterated that the focus is on fundamentals and technique, and with that, he knows it will lead to success down the stretch.
"[The coaching staff's] attention to detail, because when you have a lot of coaches who are real particular and detailed about what they do, they invest a lot of time into it, and they want things done a certain way. Down the stretch you know it is going to pay off," McKinnon concluded.