Jumbo LB hoping for time to slim down

Jonathan Gilmore is heavier than most of the Vikings' defensive linemen. For good reason: He expected to be a defensive lineman. Instead, Gilmore is an oversized linebacker hoping for the chance to slim down while learning the NFL game. He talked about why he entered camp at 295 pounds, his speed and the opportunity ahead of him.

At some point, likely near the beginning of the second half of the Vikings' preseason opener Saturday night in Tennessee, Vikings fans will see a player that looks like a defensive lineman patrolling the middle of the field as the middle linebacker.

Undrafted rookie Jonathan Gilmore is listed at 295 pounds and it's not a misprint or embellishment, even if he has lost a few pounds typical of players during training camp. While he wears number 47, he looks like he should be sporting a number in the 60s or 90s, the ones reserved for defensive linemen.

There is good reason for Gilmore's size. He thought he would end up in the NFL as a defensive lineman, based on a combine workout he did in Detroit in front of all 32 NFL teams.

"I was going to be raw as a defensive lineman and I'm going to still be raw as a backer, but it just seemed like the way to go as being able to use what I have," said the muscular Gilmore, who says his college coach at Western Oregon also considered moving him to the defensive line.

"All through college I was fighting getting put down on the defensive line because my coach thought my talents could be better served on the defensive line. That's where I thought I would be able to have an in with the NFL. I feel like I'm still a little bit athletic for a big fella. So that's where I thought I was going to be going. So when I got the call from my agent, I was surprised that I was going to be a backer."

Gilmore played at 285 pounds in college and his listed weight of 295 is heavier than 10 of the Vikings' 14 defensive linemen in training camp. The two heaviest linebackers in camp next to Gilmore are free agent Mark Washington at 258 and Jasper Brinkley at 252.

Gilmore said he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.79 at the Detroit combine and ran a 4.69 during his tryout for the United Football League, when he weight about 290. But if he is going to continue being worked at linebacker, he figures 275 pounds would be an ideal weight for him. That's still heavier than six defensive linemen in camp.

"I feel like I can move fairly decent, but there's always room for improvement. I could be a lot faster, a lot quicker and it obviously makes me a little bit stiffer being at 295," he said.

With no offseason practices or minicamps because of the NFL lockout, Gilmore was working out with the assumption that NFL teams would want to look at him as a potential defensive lineman. After signing on July 31, his size had to surprise his fellow linebackers.

"It seemed like it turned some heads amongst the locker room," he said. "It doesn't surprise me. Everybody has viewed me as a big backer. I was 265 freshman year, 250 in high school and so on and so forth, so I've always been a real big backer."

Although the Vikings' Cover-2 defensive scheme is new to Gilmore, he said he was asked to cover offensive players in college. However, he knows that having more time to prepare for that reality would have been helpful.

"I would have been leaner, a little bit lighter. There's a reason why 295-pound backers aren't littered throughout the NFL," he said.

He's still hoping he gets a chance to slim down and work on becoming quicker in the hips by making the Vikings' practice squad. If that doesn't happen, there is a Vikings connection or two waiting for him out west. Former Vikings coach Dennis Green and the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the UFL hold his rights, and he was scouted by former Vikings safety Robert Griffith. About 10 minutes into his workout for them, they offered him a contract.

His goal, however, is to make the Vikings practice squad and "come back tenfold better" for it. Either way, he's working toward his dream.

"Just to get paid to play football, that's pretty cool. Most people are busting their butt – at least I would be busting my butt to do something that I completely enjoy."


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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He thought he would end up in the NFL as a defensive lineman, based on a combine workout he did in Detroit in front of all 32 NFL teams. \"I was going to be raw as a defensive lineman and I'm going to still be raw as a backer, but it just seemed like the way to go as being able to use what I have,\" said the muscular Gilmore, who says his college coach at Western Oregon also considered moving him to the defensive line. \"All through college I was fighting getting put down on the defensive line because my coach thought my talents could be better served on the defensive line. That's where I thought I would be able to have an in with the NFL. I feel like I'm still a little bit athletic for a big fella. So that's where I thought I was going to be going. So when I got the call from my agent, I was surprised that I was going to be a backer.\" Gilmore played at 285 pounds in college and his listed weight of 295 is heavier than 10 of the Vikings' 14 defensive linemen in training camp. The two heaviest linebackers in camp next to Gilmore are free agent Mark Washington at 258 and Jasper Brinkley at 252. Gilmore said he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.79 at the Detroit combine and ran a 4.69 during his tryout for the United Football League, when he weight about 290. But if he is going to continue being worked at linebacker, he figures 275 pounds would be an ideal weight for him. That's still heavier than six defensive linemen in camp. \"I feel like I can move fairly decent, but there's always room for improvement. I could be a lot faster, a lot quicker and it obviously makes me a little bit stiffer being at 295,\" he said. With no offseason practices or minicamps because of the NFL lockout, Gilmore was working out with the assumption that NFL teams would want to look at him as a potential defensive lineman. After signing on July 31, his size had to surprise his fellow linebackers. \"It seemed like it turned some heads amongst the locker room,\" he said. \"It doesn't surprise me. Everybody has viewed me as a big backer. I was 265 freshman year, 250 in high school and so on and so forth, so I've always been a real big backer.\" Although the Vikings' Cover-2 defensive scheme is new to Gilmore, he said he was asked to cover offensive players in college. However, he knows that having more time to prepare for that reality would have been helpful. \"I would have been leaner, a little bit lighter. There's a reason why 295-pound backers aren't littered throughout the NFL,\" he said. He's still hoping he gets a chance to slim down and work on becoming quicker in the hips by making the Vikings' practice squad. If that doesn't happen, there is a Vikings connection or two waiting for him out west. 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