One of the first moves the Vikings made at the end of their 2010 season was to sign wide receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux. After a pair of big seasons in the Canadian Football League, the Vikings' scouting staff liked what they saw from him and believed he could translate smoothly into the NFL game.
The Vikings weren't alone. With a looming lockout, it appeared as though there would be no free-agent period in March to fill gaps on the roster and there was a frenzy among teams scouting the few players that were on the open market – refugees from the CFL and the fledgling UFL, and unsigned players who were street free agents.
Arceneaux said he made the rounds and, when it came down to it, he felt most comfortable with the Vikings. When the team made his agent an offer, he stopped shopping and signed on the dotted line.
"We just put everything in God's hands and let him lead you where it is you need to go," Arceneaux said. "That's pretty much what happened. I had several workouts with different teams, but at the end of the day, you really just have to follow your gut feeling."
He admitted one of the primary factors that went into his decision was that the Vikings appeared to have a need at wide receiver. It was becoming apparent that Sidney Rice would hit the open market and the Vikings likely weren't going to get in a bidding war for him and that there would be a void created that would likely need to be filled by multiple players, making the Vikings a very attractive option for a guy who was facing an uphill battle to have a viable NFL career.
"It pretty much was that," Arceneaux said. "It looked like Sidney Rice was leaving, and during the lockout (the wide receiver corps) wasn't known. But, after (the lockout ended) you saw all the transactions and the things that went through (with players changing teams and being signed). At the end of the day, nothing is going to be given to you and you have work for the things you really want."
Arceneaux was among the team's final cuts at the end of the preseason, but was immediately signed to the practice squad. He understood the decision because his learning curve was pretty steep. His experience in college had been at Division I-AA Alcorn State and, after not getting much of a sniff from the NFL, he went to the Great White North to play in the Canadian Football League because it was his only option.
Last year with the B.C. Lions, he played in 18 games, leading the team with 67 receptions for 1,114 yards and five touchdowns. In his only playoff game, he caught five passes for 80 yards and a touchdown.
Without the benefit of an offseason workout program, OTAs and minicamps in Minnesota, he never got the opportunity to make an impression on the coaching staff until the cattle call of training camp. He did make an impact, but, when the chips were down, he was demoted to the practice squad.
He said he wasn't surprised that he didn't stick on the final 53-man roster, but what about when the team cut Bernard Berrian or put Michael Jenkins on injured reserve? In both instances, rookie Stephen Burton got called up to the big club and Arceneaux was left behind on the practice squad. Was he shocked that he didn't get his chance sooner?
"Not really," Arceneaux said. "I knew that everything I wanted I would have to work for. Coming from a DI-AA school and going the back route to Canada – which isn't publicized much in the U.S. – so (they were thinking) can this kid from a DI-AA school and the CFL come and compete on the NFL level? In the weeks that I've been on the practice squad working with (wide receivers) coach (George) Stewart, I transformed my game from night to day. I was able to grasp the concepts of the NFL and how to be an NFL receiver."
He said he remained hopeful that his opportunity would arrive and that he never lost sight of his ultimate goal – to play in the NFL. That day may well come Sunday, but it has been almost a full year in the making (longer if you factor in his CFL experience) and he said he has remained upbeat because, in a violent game like the NFL, you may be the next man up and, if that calls, you have to ready to answer it.
"I've just come to work every day fired up," Arceneaux said. "You never know what can happen. Any Sunday – or any day – anything can happen. The thing is just trying to be ready so you don't have to get ready. It's just focus. Why are you in those meetings? Why are you out on the practice field? You never count yourself out, because you're not sure what can happen to anybody."
Arceneaux plans to get his chance to turn what he has learned on the practice squad into production on the field. Asked what receiver in the league reminds him of himself, Arceneaux declined to make any comparisons, saying that he is looking at putting his foot in the door and kicking it open and creating his own legacy, not coat-tailing himself as the "next" anyone.
"I'm just trying to make a name for Emmanuel Arceneaux first," he said. "That's what I'm trying to do – just be me and play my game. That's pretty much it."
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.
Arceneaux looking to pave his own way
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