The Vikings biggest charity event for player participation provided a bit of a synopsis of Jerick McKinnon's early days with the Minnesota Vikings.
McKinnon was taking time out from helping with the Vikings' annual playground build at a Twin Cities school to talk with a reporter. One of the boys at the elementary school stopped the conversation and asked if Adrian Peterson was there yet. Then the boy asked McKinnon what position he plays.
The answer is simple: McKinnon is one of the backup options the Vikings have if anything goes wrong with Peterson or he simply needs a rest that he isn't likely to request on his own.
"I'd definitely say that depth plays a big role in the offense just because we've got a lot of talented guys that can do a lot of the things that the coaches are asking for," McKinnon said. "At any given moment, it may be somebody else's opportunity. I'm just going to fit in and not miss a beat – keep the offense on the same page and keep the tempo rolling."
But McKinnon knows that, barring injury, he isn't going to be a starter. That designation belongs to Peterson, who was McKinnon's idol growing up. One of two Vikings third-round draft picks in May, McKinnon got a few months under his belt of getting to know Peterson.
"Everything I knew how it was going to be is exactly how it was. Just being able to meet him I'd say is the crazy part," McKinnon said. "You idolize somebody and then you end up being drafted to the team and you get to meet him in person, learn from him, talk to him one on one. He's definitely a great guy, down to earth. A lot of experience, a lot of accolades, so I'd definitely say it's a lesson to be learned from him."
Peterson is mostly a learn-by-example type of mentor and his work ethic commands instant respect. But even a cat-quick player like McKinnon was impressed with Peterson's athleticism.
"Just how quick he is, how fast he is," McKinnon said when asked what impresses him most about Peterson. "His acceleration from zero to 100, definitely the most wowing thing, just seeing it in person, him making a plant and getting back to 100 that fast."
McKinnon mentioned Peterson unprompted in the first question about the Vikings at the charity event, saying there is a lot to be learned by simply observing Peterson.
But McKinnon's role is expected to be far different from Peterson's workhorse duty. The 5-foot-9, 208-pound pick from Georgia Southern could provide some third-down versatility out of the backfield and likely will have to find a contributing part on special teams to be activated regularly on game days.
"Jerick, he's a unique athlete. He's not a real big guy, but he has great speed and quickness as you have seen in practice here the last four weeks or so," special teams coach Mike Priefer said during minicamp. "He can be a backup returner; I don't think he's quite ready to take over that role yet, but he can be a backup returner, he can help on the punt team, probably as a wing. I have him working as a wing and as a personal protector, what we call a fullback, probably on kickoff and punt return as well, because he's got great feet and uses his hands well."
There are a variety of roles McKinnon will be asked to fill, but supplanting Peterson and becoming a leading character in the offense isn't going to happen anytime soon.
Just as the one boy only wanted to know about Peterson when approaching McKinnon, another one followed a minute later asking what position McKinnon plays. Finding out that he wasn't a quarterback, the second boy turned around and walked away.
Such is the life of a rookie looking to make his own name behind Peterson, the most familiar and popular name on the Vikings and the person McKinnon once idolized.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
McKinnon impressed with Peterson, his idol
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