Minnesota Vikings DE Stephen Weatherly put the student in student-athlete

The Minnesota Vikings got one of the most intelligent players in the 2016 draft in defensive end Stephen Weatherly. While a very talented college football player, his talents go far beyond the gridiron.

Too often, college football players are given the tag of being “dumb jocks” – young men who are at a university solely because of their athletic ability and not much to do with their intelligence and scholarly ability.

Nobody will question the intelligence of Minnesota Vikings seventh-round defensive end Stephen Weatherly.

A two-year starter at Vanderbilt as an edge rusher, football is far from his only accomplishment. One of his talents is to play an array of instruments proficiently. At first it was something forced upon him. As time went on, he not only embraced his musical side, he expanded it.

“It came from my elementary school,” Weatherly said. “It was mandatory for people to play in the band or orchestra and I chose the band. From there, I just started in the front with flute and moved back. I played flute, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, baritone, tuba, tenor saxophone and then in college I took up steel drums and piano.”

Weathlerly’s off-field talents didn’t stop simply with music. Accomplished in both chess and mathematics, he was part of a group of students at Shiloh High School in Snellville, Ga. that started a robotics league.

Like just about everything else Weatherly has tried in his young life, he found success in that as well.

“My junior year of high school, we started a robotics league,” Weatherly said. “It was the first robotics league at our school. We built a refrigerator-sized robot that took inflatable tubes and put them on rings that were three, six and nine feet off the ground. At the end of the competition, we put a mini robot that climbed a 12-foot pole. I was the leader on that team and we designed it, built it and programmed it and went to regionals in Georgia. We were the best rookie team in Georgia and went to the world championships in St. Louis that year and competed against other teams around the world.”

While he has excelled in most things he has attempted, his focus is now solely on football. When he was drafted, he was listed as an outside linebacker, despite being 6-4, 267. But he played under two separate systems at Vanderbilt. He spent his redshirt freshman and freshman season working as a defensive end in 4-3 scheme and his final two seasons at outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.

He made no bones about where he has been told he will play with the Vikings and he agrees wholeheartedly that he is only a defensive end at the next level.

“Definitely defensive end,” Weatherly said. “I came in my first two years under (head coach) James Franklin, we were playing a 4-3, and played defensive end. When Coach (Derek) Mason came in he moved all defensive ends to outside linebackers, but I felt most natural at defensive end.”

Playing in different schemes has brought some versatility to Weatherly’s game and, while he knows he will be playing one position in the NFL, the knowledge he gained through learning the responsibilities of different positions will bode well for him in his NFL future because there won’t be anything he won’t have pre-existing familiarity with.

“My versatility was definitely something a lot of people liked, that I was able to do pretty well at both,” Weatherly said. “Just from an overall defensive perspective, seeing the ball from having my hand on the ground and also being able to see and play football while standing up, it helps me break down and analyze the game.”

As for his odds of making the Vikings roster, Weatherly knows late-round picks coming into a room stocked with veterans won’t be easy, but he has special teams experience and is going to make it hard for the Vikings to make him a Labor Day Weekend cut.

“I definitely see myself playing on all four special teams and competing anywhere coach puts me,” Weatherly said. “When it comes to the defensive line, it is a strong defensive line and I aim to try and add on wherever I can, wherever they see me.”

Given his history of taking on challenges and succeeding, it would be wise not to bet against him.

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