McLeod Bethel-Thompson found a full-time NFL gig, but he might not be spending much time at whatever residence he has in Minnesota.
The newest developmental quarterback with the Minnesota Vikings plans on spending plenty of time learning and honing his skills now that he beat the odds and made the 53-man roster.
"I'm going to live at this facility all day and all night. That's my focus," Bethel-Thompson said while standing in front of his Winter Park locker midway through his first day preparing for an NFL regular-season game.
The former Arena Football League and United Football League quarterback is now a full-fledged NFL quarterback. He had a chance at that status last year as well, spending time with the San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins, but the Vikings saw enough promise in him this year to keep him over Sage Rosenfels, the 12-year veteran who had the best preseason quarterback rating (122.9) on the team.
Despite seeing his focus of the last eight months pay off, Bethel-Thompson isn't turning his attention to the long-term. He's not allowing himself to think he has arrived or has any job security.
"You really can't do that. I think you still look day to day and work on contributing to this team on a day-to-day basis and whatever it is that helps Christian (Ponder) prepare to start or help him out on a day-to-day basis. You can't really concentrate on yourself as an individual," he said. "You really have to look at yourself as a team and where the Minnesota Vikings are going to go in 2012, and anything I can do to contribute to them, that's preparing myself and doing my job and preparing myself to the best of my ability, and that for me is a day-in and day-out process – putting in the hours."
In a five-minute interview, he averaged saying he was excited once per minute, and who can blame him? Last year alone, he was part of four different teams, starting in the Arena Football League, moving to the NFL and San Francisco 49ers for the preseason after the lockout had ended, catching on with the United Football League's Sacramento Mountain Lions after his release from the 49ers, and finally ending the year on the Miami Dolphins' practice squad.
To say it's been a wild ride to his position on a 53-man roster would be an understatement. And to see and hear him talk about it, it's unmistakably evident how much he appreciates where he is now.
"It's awesome. I really tell you, it was a great, great process coming from the Arena League, and learning from (coaches) and the great players that are in that league was fantastic," he said. "And going to the Niners and having that experience through (Jim) Harbaugh, my first NFL experience, that whole coaching staff and to the UFL and getting more game experience and playing time, it was a great, wild, very different journey, but I kind of embraced that and like it. It makes me the person I am today. It makes me understand and be humbled by where I am and know that there's a lot more to go and the journey is going to continue."
He has heard from several of his former teammates that reached out to congratulate him on reaching a dream they all share as they toil in the minor leagues of football. But it took some faith in Bethel-Thompson for the Vikings to make the move they did. They released the most productive and veteran quarterback of their 2012 preseason and kept the least productive and least experienced.
Rosenfels had the best completion percentage (68.0) of the four Vikings quarterbacks, highest yards-per-attempt (9.0), best touchdown percentage (8.0), best TD-to-INT rate (2-to-0), tied for taking the fewest sacks (two) and had the best rating (122.9). Bethel-Thompson had the lowest completion percentage (50.0) and rating (57.9), but the Vikings saw enough promise to keep the 24-year-old over the 33-year-old.
Bethel-Thompson simply emerged from the preseason thinking of the mistakes he made in his most extension action in the finale rather than worrying too much about the potential long-term ramifications and sizing up his roster chances.
"Coming off the game I was thinking about things I did wrong and trying to take from the game the positive and trying to learn from the negative," he said. "In terms of the (roster) numbers, that's something a player can never control. I was worried about the stuff I could control, which is my performance on the field, so I was kind of dwelling on that. I never sleep well after games because I'm always thinking about the plays that I could have back, especially in that last one on that last drive. That's kind of what I was focused on."
Now he gets to constantly concern himself with the next opponent and imagine what he might have done in the last game if he had been on the field. It might be until next preseason before he sees playing time in an NFL game, but the fact that he still has a chance means something to the former Sacramento State quarterback that finally broke through to a 53-man NFL roster after his third try.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
MBT fully appreciates his NFL opportunity
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