Bobby Felder has a repeating theme in his Twitter posts: "All I need is one opportunity."
The second-year Vikings cornerback made the most of his first opportunity to be a punt returner and helped his cause in trying to crack the team's 53-man roster.
Felder returned three punts for 62 yards, including a 37-yarder. But that opportunity didn't come easily.
"I think I surprised myself back there. I'm the type of guy who kind of gets overwhelmed on some things," Felder said Sunday after a few days to process Friday night's success against the Buffalo Bills. "When (special teams coordinator Mike Priefer) told me, ‘Go back there,' it never crossed my mind to get nervous back there. I was just kind of in my own world back there and just focused on catching the ball. Everything after that was a bonus."
Felder's first opportunity resulted in a 21-yard return. After being held in check for a 4-yard return midway through the fourth quarter, he provided what he hoped would be the spark to finalize a Vikings comeback with a 37-yard punt return that started after the 2-minute warning.
"I was just trying to get back there and help my team in any way I possibly can," he said. "Coach Priefer had some great calls, and actually on that last one, it was kind of late toward the end of the game. I was just trying to make a play at the end, put my team in the best possible position to go down there and win the game on the last drive."
That part of the equation didn't work out, as three of the Vikings' next four passes were incomplete and they turned the ball over on downs to complete their 20-16 loss to the Bills.
Felder, however, made a winning statement about his versatility.
In the third quarter, Felder downed two of Jeff Locke's punts inside the 5-yard line. The first was at the 3-yard line, the second at the 2-yard line.
"Honestly, I think it's just about being versatile, being able to do a lot of things, not just be one of the guys that can just play defense," said the 5-foot-11, 200-pound cornerback. "If you ask anybody, I try to do anything they ask me to do, whether it's punt return or a gunner on punt, vice, kickoff, kickoff return, I try to do it all to better my chances to make the 53-man roster."
Returning two of three punts for more than 20 yards and downing two punts inside the 5-yard line is a good way to do that.
He admitted that his performance may have surprised Priefer, too.
"Being that he had never seen me in action in an actual game situation, I think he probably would have been surprised," Felder said.
But it isn't like his special teams prowess came out of nowhere. At Nicholls State, Felder blocked three kicks and returned 12 punts – he said he had some long ones but couldn't break any of them for touchdowns. At McComb (Miss.) High School, he said he returned four punts for touchdowns, helping him earn a top-25 ranking in Mississippi as a senior.
Last year, Marcus Sherels averaged 9.0 yards on 32 punt returns and was the only Viking to return a punt. Felder wasn't among the five players to get a chance to return punts in the 2012 preseason. Friday was his first opportunity and he made the most of it.
Like Felder, Sherels is a backup cornerback, so Felder has an opportunity to win Sherels' job on the 53-man roster. He spent all of last year on the practice squad honing his skill as a cornerback.
In the preseason opener, he played in almost 50 percent of the defensive snaps, had four tackles and a pass defensed. But he was also the victim of a 34-yard touchdown pass to Houston Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Felder appeared to in a position to make a play on the ball, but Hopkins out-jumped him for the touchdown.
"In my honest opinion, maybe I could have made him run up my back a little bit more. I was in perfect position," Felder said. "That's the play that I make nine out of 10 times. That's not a play that's going to bother me. This is the NFL, but now that I look back on the film, I don't make excuses or anything, but I felt a little awkward when I jumped and as I look back on the film, he kind of used my shoulder pads to rise up and jump, so it kind of threw my timing off a little bit.
"… The deep ball is something I do. I go get deep balls. I'm just going to live with it, learn with it, take my coaching if they tell me what to do better and just make the play the next time it comes around."
In other words, Felder is looking for another opportunity, but if he keeps making plays on defense and special teams those opportunities could come in the regular season.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
CB/PR Felder: ‘I surprised myself'
Viking Update Top Stories
Cutler returns, praising Vikings defenseBears QB Jay Cutler is returning to action and expects some rust, but he has immense respect for the Minnesota Vikings defense.
Viking UpdateYesterday at 2:43 PM
VIDEO: Bradford breaks down offensive issuesWhile Sam Bradford has generally had an impressive start to his time with the Minnesota Vikings, that didn't translate last week. He discusses the offensive struggles against the…
Viking UpdateYesterday at 2:33 PM
VIDEO: Zimmer blasts report, talks BearsMinnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer defends his character after an erroneous report that was later corrected went viral, but Zimmer settled in to talk Bears mostly on Thursday.
Viking UpdateYesterday at 1:39 PM
Vikings look to turn the pageComing off their first loss of the season, the Minnesota Vikings are looking to shake the label of being soft and get back to their winning ways at Soldier Field Monday, a place…
Viking UpdateYesterday at 12:28 PM