Among the storylines that made news in Mankato was that the safety position opposite Madieu Williams was wide open. The competition was expected to come from incumbent Tyrell Johnson and second-year man Jamarca Sanford.
But a funny thing happened to that competition. A third candidate – third-year pro Husain Abdullah – not only entered the sweepstakes, he took it over and ran away with it.
Abdullah, who had earned his stripes as a solid special teams performer, said he wasn't expecting to be part of the discussion for the starting job either, but was going to push to make the decision even more difficult by adding an extra player to the training camp battleground.
"It's funny," Abdullah said. "They said the safety competition was open. We don't know who's going to start. I figured (the competition was between) Tyrell and Jamarca as well. But I'm going to go out there and play and make (the decision) tough on them. I came out on top."
Abdullah cleared a major hurdle on his way to winning the starting job – a month-long daytime fast. Training camp fell during Ramadan, the Islamic holy month in which practicing Muslims fast – allowing themselves no food or drink during daylight hours.
Instead of serving as a hindrance to his play, Abdullah shined throughout camp and into the preseason. While he wasn't told he had locked down a starting job, he had strong suspicions as the preseason progressed that it was heading in that direction.
"We were kind of working into it by how they started doing the rotation," Abdullah said. "Them holding me out of the last preseason game (along with 19 other starters) kind of hinted toward it."
When the Vikings opened the regular season, Abdullah was there in the starting lineup and said he is working just as hard now to keep his job as he did to win it in the first place.
"I was really excited (about starting vs. the Saints), but, at the same time, I had to stay within myself – not get overly excited," Abdullah said. "It was just playing and doing right. You've got the starting job. Now you have to go out and prove you can play football."
Whether Abdullah holds down the starting job long term is yet to be seen, but he has made huge strides in the last year and has the respect of the teammates that will be lining up with him.
"He has shown a lot of determination and has worked hard to improve his game," cornerback Antoine Winfield said. "He's a different player now than he was last year or the year before that. He has worked very hard to get where he's at and he deserves everything he has attained.
Abdullah said he's looking at his new role as one that is far from guaranteed. As a result, he said he won't get complacent.
"I thought fighting to get the job would be the hardest part," Abdullah said. "I've been blessed and got the starting job. Now I have to work to keep it. That fight may be even harder, but I'm going to keep doing the same things that got me the starting job to begin with – making it hard for the coaches to put me back on the sidelines."
Abdullah's next feat? Keeping the job
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