After hearing about new Minnesota Vikings offensive line coach Tony Sparano from Mike Zimmer in January and then hearing about him from new Vikings guard Alex Boone, it seems Boone and Sparano are a perfect mix.
Zimmer expects Sparano to be demanding.
“Tony’s going to coach aggressively and be demanding,” Zimmer told Viking Update in January. “I was with him before in Dallas so I’ve seen him work and that’s how he’s always been. He’s going to push them and make them try to be better every day.”
Boone expects Sparano to be demanding, too. In fact, that is exactly what Boone wants in his position coach.
Boone has been in San Francisco throughout his six-year career. Last year, Sparano was the tight ends coach for the 49ers, giving Boone a taste of what Sparano’s coaching style is all about.
“I think it’s more in your face and those are the coaches that I really like a lot, guys that are very straightforward,” Boone said. “Hurt me with the truth, don’t comfort me with a lie. Give it to me straight. I know when I screwed up. You can tell me I screwed up. Let’s fix the problem and we’ll move on.
“That’s the kind of coach he is. I hate these guys that beat around the bush: ‘Oh, yeah, it wasn’t really your fault.’ Yeah, it was my fault. That’s fine. I’m not going to cry; I’m not a girl. It’s really his coaching style that I love.”
Boone said he comes from a “blue-collar” family and background. He was undrafted coming out of Ohio State in 2010 and didn’t start a game in his first two seasons in San Francisco, then became a full-time starter for the next four years.
Last year was his first to get to know Sparano, even if he was coaching tight ends and Boone was playing on the offensive line. They had a good dish-it-out-and-take-it relationship.
“A lot of back and forth making fun of each other, pretty much. How much of a relationship can you really have with a tight end coach?” Boone joked (we think he was joking, anyway). “Tony is a great guy and what I love about him is he’s always Tony; never anything different. He’s always Tony. He’s never any different. He’s always very calm. In San Francisco some things were going on during games, kind of hectic, and Tony was always Tony. He was great to talk to and he kind of took the edge off a little bit and he’s very understanding when you talk to him on the sideline. He never freaked out or panicked, so I always really like him a lot, but we always kind of got after each other.”
Zimmer said in January that Sparano was offering him a clear vision of what he wanted in his offensive linemen.
“I think it’s helped so far. When Hudson Houck was here, when I bring these guys in, I try to talk to them about what, ‘What do you look for in this position? When you’re looking for an offensive lineman, what are you looking for, what traits?’” Zimmer said. “And then same thing with Tony when we brought him in: ‘What are the traits that you’re looking for?’ So you can try to help narrow it down, exactly what we’re looking for. And quite honestly, it’s about saying, ‘This is the guy I like. This is the one I want. And if we can get him, I’m going to make him a player.’ Somebody to say that.”
Boone is already a player. He was one of the top-ranked guards on the free-agent list. After the Vikings found out what it would take financially to sign the top-ranked one, Kelechi Osemele, they bowed out and moved on to Boone.
The 6-foot-8, 300-pounder couldn’t have been more excited about the interest.
“When we found out they were interested, I told my agent that I didn’t care who else was involved I definitely would go to Minnesota over everybody,” Boone said. “I love this division and I love the atmosphere around here and I’ve got friends on the team and they’ve all said the same thing – great locker room, great guys, great coaches, great organization from the top down. And these are guys that I trust so I believe them. And when I found out they were interested my agent actually called everybody and said if you’re deadlocked he’s going to go to Minnesota and be in the cold, over Miami, anywhere. This is the place. This is the division. I’m excited about this. Hopefully get some cold outside games and some big games.”