There are many factors that motivate players. What was the motivation for Vikings sixth-round center Brandon Fusco? He was pissed off.
Fusco didn't play football until his junior year of high school, because he wasn't all that interested in it. But, as his teen angst began to increase, so did his need to vent some of his pent-up aggression. Football proved to be the outlet he was looking for, even though, at the time, he wasn't passionate about the game.
"I wasn't really into sports that much," Fusco said. "My sophomore year, I didn't really do nothing and football just kind of came to my attention. I always watched it on TV and sometimes I got into a pissed of mood, so I wanted to get on the field and take my frustrations out on people."
While he wasn't an angry kid, he wanted to find a way to get out the anger, something he picked up at home.
"I think I got it from my dad," Fusco said. "He has a temper on him. I (wasn't) a pissed-off kid, but people piss me off and I like to take it out on people on the field."
By college standards, the Pennsylvania native wasn't the biggest or the strongest. By his own admission, Slippery Rock was his only scholarship offer and for good reason.
"I really wasn't heavily recruited out of high school," Fusco said. "I was about 6-4, 240 – real skinny, built like a pencil and didn't take the weight room as seriously as I do now. Schools weren't really recruiting me, it was Division II schools. Slippery Rock came to my house and I felt I really connected with the coaching staff. They offered me a scholarship and it's about 45 minutes from my house, so the location was good and it was a perfect fit for me. I really haven't ever regretted it since."
Not only did he make the team, he started all 44 games of his college career at center. He became a team leader, so much so that he was named Offensive Most Valuable Player as a senior – an honor almost never bestowed on a center. He also won the Division II version of the Rimington Award and the Gene Upshaw Lineman of the Year Award in 2010, but said the team MVP award was a sign of respect and the prize he coveted most because it was voted on by his teammates and coaches.
"I think I was the heart and soul of our offense," Fusco said. "I took a lot of pride in our team and the team looked up to me a lot when times were rough. At Slippery Rock everyone means a lot to me and I took a lot of pride in football. I just love football and I'm excited about being a Viking and starting my career."
Like most small-college prospects, the odds were against him, but it was the opportunity to go heads-up with the top college talent at both the Senior Bowl and the Combine that turned him from an undrafted free-agent type to a member of the Minnesota Vikings.
"I played good at the Senior Bowl, but could have played a lot better," Fusco said. "I think what really opened a lot of people's eyes was the Combine. I had really good numbers and I showed a lot of people my athleticism. I think the Combine helped boost my stock."
For a kid who didn't really care that much about football until he was 16, Fusco isn't limiting himself to being just a training camp body. He has goals that are lofty and, given his work ethic and durability, he doesn't want to just make the team, he wants to compete for the starting job.
"(Minnesota has) got a great running game and a great running back in Adrian Peterson," Fusco said. "You have two centers right now in (John) Sullivan and (Jon) Cooper. I'm going to be coming in and competing with those guys and I feel confident in my game. I think if I just learn the system and get used to this level, I think I can be pushing for a starting job soon."
While he may be a long shot for that initially, there are two things people are starting to learn about Fusco – don't underestimate him, and don't piss him off.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Fusco a ‘pissed-off' player
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