Saturday, August 5, 2017

TE Nick Truesdell is embracing his NFL opportunity

Minnesota Vikings tight end Nick Truesdell is making an unconventional transition to the NFL. It's been his fifth stop in eight months since joining the Vikings in March. Find out what the journey has taught Truesdell. 

Updated: August 5, 2017, 1:35 p.m.

By: Daniel House

Minnesota Vikings tight end Nick Truesdell is making an unconventional transition to the NFL. The journey started at Grand Rapids Community College, went to the Indoor Football League, stopped at the Arena Football League, and reached its final destination – the NFL. It wasn’t before Truesdell joined five teams in an eight-month span. Along the way, Truesdell got his life back on track after spending time in jail for theft and drug trafficking. It led him to multiple teams across the IFL, AFL, and now, NFL.

After playing for the Arizona Rattlers in the AFL, Truesdell caught the eye of Vikings scouts at a pro combine. During all of his stops, he played almost exclusively at wide receiver, but added weight to be a tight end for the Vikings. 

For a few days in 2016, Trusedell was on the Indianapolis Colts’ roster during training camp. However, he weighed just 236 pounds, limiting his ability to contribute. After being cut by the Colts, Trusedell knew he needed to change his mindset to carve out a role in the NFL. 

“I only went in weighing 236 or something like that,” Trusedell said. “Now I’ve definitely learned that it takes hard work and you have to dedicated to your craft to get better every day.”

Between his time with the Cleveland Gladiators and Vikings, the tight end packed on 16 additional pounds to become more formidable at the position. After adding the weight, Truesdell managed to run a 4.6 40-yard dash in front of NFL scouts at a pro combine. It caught the eyes of talent evaluators.

Now, Truesdell measures in at 6-foot-6, 252 pounds and is adjusting to the nuances of playing tight end in the NFL. His wide catch radius, large frame, and above average athleticism allow him to stand out in the crowd.

“I’m here as a tight end now so that’s kind of been a transition for me, especially with the blocking part of things,” Trusedell said. “In the pass game, I’m just a pass catcher and a playmaker down the field.”

The transition to tight end has many intricacies, including the need for run blocking skills. Trusedell said he has no trouble playing physical, but the footwork and technique has been the main obstacle for him to overcome.  

“It doesn’t have anything to do with not wanting to hit,” he said. “It’s just a lot of technique and footwork that is completely new to me.”

After having experience at wide receiver, dating back to 2008, Truesdell’s route running and athleticism have allowed him to shine in the passing game. It's an aspect of Truesdell's skill-set he can use as a tight end for the Vikings.

“I’m used to running routes against corners and safeties and now it’s more linebackers and safeties,” Truesdell said. “Even with the weight that I’ve put on and everything, I still have my speed and my agility, so I think that has definitely helped me out with my route running.”

Truesdell played on an Arena League football field that was significantly shorter than a standard NFL playing field. The indoor surface is just 50 yards long and confines playmakers into a tight space. Until Trusedell got a call from the Spokane Shock, he had never even heard of the AFL. The new rules and space constraints were an adjustment, but he quickly adapted.  

“It’s definitely an exciting game,” he said. “It’s high paced and high scoring and everything. The rules are a little different. There’s only eight guys on the field on each side of the ball and the field is only 50 yards.”

The experience at a high tempo is something Trusedell uses to his advantage at the NFL level. The wider field dimensions allow him to move freely as a route runner like he did back in his college days. He can unleash the wide frame and playmaking ability he flashed in the red zone on a bigger field.
“[The AFL is] definitely a fun game because the pace is so fast and everything,” he said. “The field is bigger and it kind of helps from that aspect of it.”

Nonetheless, Truesdell used the small field to make an impact as a playmaker in the AFL. Trusedell caught 33 passes for 355 yards and seven touchdowns in nine games with the Spokane Shock in 2014. In the next season, he added 80 receptions for 977 yards and 23 touchdowns. He wants to bring this playmaking ability to the NFL, but knows the technical aspect of the game will be equally important. 

The transition to tight end has required a focus on fundamentals for Truesdell, but he noted the benefit of watching veteran Kyle Rudolph in practice every day. He has asked for advice and studied many aspects of Rudolph's game since joining the Vikings in March.

“[Rudolph] definitely had a big impact on me. I try to watch everything he does because he’s a vet, he’s been here a long time. He’s been the to Pro Bowl and that’s something that I want to get to someday. I always make sure I watch his footwork and do the best I can do to mimic it.”

This may be the final shot for Trusedell, who is trying to revive his career at 27 years old. He is embracing the opportunity by doing what he does best every day.

“Just being a big target and getting up there to catch high balls and jump over guys,” he said.


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