Reese Strickland/USA TODAY

John Lowdermilk goes from ‘grouch’ on a couch to NFL safety again

John Lowdermilk’s NFL dream was put on hold far too long for his comfort, but his opportunity came with his dad’s old team, and he believes his girlfriend is glad to see him leave and get another NFL opportunity.

The Minnesota Vikings have a familiar name on their roster as of Tuesday, as the team signed former Iowa strong safety John Lowdermilk.

Of that Lowdermilk family?


John is the son of Kirk Lowdermilk, who played center for the Vikings from 1985-92, the last six as a starter. He was a third-round draft pick out of Ohio State who ended up playing 178 NFL games and making 150 career starts, spending eight years with the Vikings and his final four years with the Indianapolis Colts.

John was born in Edina and lived in Chanhassen, but doesn’t have any recollections of Minnesota when his dad was playing in the NFL. A year after he was born, Kirk Lowdermilk moved on to the Colts, so any memories he has of Minnesota are confined to photos and family videos.

John’s journey to the NFL was much different than his father’s. He was undrafted and was a free agent signing of the San Diego Chargers on the Sunday of draft weekend. He spent the next four months with the Chargers and was one of the final cuts the team made prior to the start of the regular season.

Lowdermilk was at a loss for what to do. He was hoping to get a call in the days following his release from the Chargers.

The days turned into weeks.

The weeks turned into months.

There was a time when he began wondering if the call would ever come.

“It’s not fun,” Lowdermilk said. “You’re constantly waiting to get a call. You’re hoping, but you don’t know if you’re ever going to get one. I was just working to keep in shape and I got a call from my agent that the Vikings wanted to bring me in for a workout, so here I am.”

His phone did ring in October from the Denver Broncos, but he wasn’t signed. He returned to Iowa City to resume his education to finish off his degree and spend time with his girlfriend.

When the call came from the Vikings about setting up a workout late last week, he wasn’t sure who was happier about it – him or his girlfriend.

“I still have to finish school, so I’ve been staying there and working out,” Lowdermilk said. “To be honest, I think I was getting to be kind of a grouch about it. I think she’s probably a little happy that I’m out of there, because I was such a pain. She’s happy for me and the good thing is that Iowa City is only about four hours away, so it’s not too bad of a drive for her to come and visit.”
After being dormant for almost three months from the time of his release by San Diego, the thought crossed his mind that he may have to face the reality that his days playing football might be over.

He tried to convince himself that his opportunity would happen at some point during the season, but it wasn’t always easy, as doubts started to creep in that his last game may well have been his last game.

“Yeah, that’s always in the back of your mind,” Lowdermilk said. “You think about it a lot. It’s your dream. It’s always been my dream, personally, to play in the NFL. I was constantly waiting and I’m just glad the Vikings called because I was starting to get a little worried about it.”

He turned to his father for advice at times and, like most good dads, Kirk dispensed the best advice he could. However, it was new ground for both of them. Lowdermilk was a third-round draft pick whose job security was never in doubt until his NFL career came to an end.

While his dad could sympathize, he couldn’t really empathize, because, after 12 NFL seasons, he was ready to leave on his own terms. John isn’t ready, so they don’t discuss it all that much when they have their father-son discussions.

“I don’t think he was ever cut,” John said. “I’m in a much different position than he was in, so he doesn’t really know what it’s like what I’ve been going through. He gives me advice, but I don’t think he knows what it’s like, so we don’t talk too much about that side of it.”

Whenever a player is signed to the practice squad they come into it knowing that he may only be a short-term fix. With Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo both banged up, Lowdermilk’s immediate role will be to take practice reps with the defense while the position is shorthanded and provide scout-team looks for the offense.

Where will it go from here? That’s anyone’s guess. Life on the practice squad is tenuous at best. Just ask linebacker Terrance Plummer, who was waived to make room for Lowdermilk on the roster. A spot on a NFL team can come and go in the blink of an eye.

All the Vikings are doing is giving Lowdermilk is an opportunity. His job now is to show why he should stay on the roster.

The question now is will he make the most of that opportunity?

“I hope so,” Lowdermilk said. “I’m just taking it day by day. I’m not thinking too far ahead. Right now, I’m just trying to get to know the guys and get to know the defense. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen. All I can do is work hard and try to make an impression on the coaches that I belong here and can bring something to the team.”

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