Emmanuel Arceneaux didn't have a football scholarship from a big Division I powerhouse, but all these years later he's staring at his NFL dream while thousands of those who struck the college big-time are nowhere near the NFL scene.
Arceneaux signed with the Vikings in January and expected a full offseason of honing his skills with the coaches at Winter Park. Instead, the NFL's lockout of players has forced him to find his own tutoring from a pair of former NFL receivers, Nate Singleton and Torrance Small.
Singleton played with the San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Oilers during a five-year career back in the 1990s. Small played 10 NFL seasons with the New Orleans Saints, St. Louis Rams, Indianapolis Colts, Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots. Like Arceneaux, Singleton and Small were both small-school players who got their shot at the NFL and found a career that spanned longer than the average. Singleton was a product of Grambling State and Small went to Alcorn State, just like Arceneaux, and they have been working with him in New Orleans in recent weeks.
"They just teach me how to use my frame and my body and just getting in and out of breaks to be as smooth as possible because on this next level it's all about spacing and separation," Arceneaux said.
They are providing the NFL guidance that Vikings coaches are prohibited from doing during the lockout. During the draft, there was a one-day reprieve of the lockout and Arceneaux heard from the Vikings at that time. He said because of the short window of opportunity, there wasn't much football talk, but he's aiming to prove something to the coaches whenever he is able to start practicing in front of them.
"That they made the right decision by bringing in a hard worker. That's all I know is to work hard and that's one thing I want to show them. Whatever it is I have to do – whatever a man's task is, I have to be able to handle it and take care of it. I've never had anything given to me before and I don't plan on it now at this level."
Arceneaux's career path to the NFL has been different than most. After a career at small-college Alcorn State in Mississippi – the same place that gave rise to Steve McNair and Donald Driver, as well as Vikings coach Leslie Frazier – he didn't garner any serious interest from the NFL. Instead, he had to ply his trade for two years in the CFL, where he became a star for the B.C. Lions.
Last year, Arceneaux caught 67 passes for 1,114 yards, figures that gained him NFL workouts with a handful of teams before choosing the Vikings. His reported $75,000 signing bonus is about what he would earn playing a season in the CFL, and if he makes the Vikings' preseason roster he would stand to triple that figure. But in order to do that, he realized his game needed refining, which resulted in the workouts with Small and Singleton, as well as previously going to Scottsdale, Ariz., to train with Luke Neal at the Athletes Factory.
"He worked on me (to) just get my knees up and getting in and out of my breaks and just tuning me up," said Areceneaux, who realizes that some techniques differ in the NFL because there isn't as much presnap movement with the receivers as the CFL allows.
Eventually, Arceneaux will be able to experience regular workouts at Winter Park – so far, that's been limited to his tryout before signing – but he has already gotten to know some of the current Vikings, including quarterback Rhett Bomar, who threw to Arceneaux during that initial tryout.
For now, however, he is left to train with others in preparation for his first shot at the NFL.
"I want to know what it's like to play in the NFL. I was like, I'm just going to, by the grace of God, play and do my hard work. Hard work, they say, pays off and one day I may have that opportunity to play in the NFL because a lot of guys that come up there played in the NFL and for whatever reason. Whether it's an injury or something happened, they all had that opportunity and I was like, man, I never had that before. So I actually wanted to experience it."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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