Q&A: With RBs Coach Dean Dalton

Mewelde Moore has had an impressive showing so far in his rookie campaign, but the Vikings had the inside track in scouting him at the combine. Plus, get the opinion of the running backs coach on the lesser-known backs waiting in the wings.

Dean Dalton is in his sixth season in Minnesota, his third as running backs coach, after spending his first three seasons with the Vikings working primarily alongside Mike Tice on the offensive line. Last season, Dalton helped the offense to achieving their first NFL No. 1 ranking in team history. The Vikings finished second in the NFC and fourth in the NFL in rushing.

Prior to joining the Vikings in 1999, Dalton spent four years as the managing editor of War Room Publications and the president of The Red Zone Interactive. Dalton also worked as the dean of students and director of athletics for the Delavan-Darien School District in Delevan, Wis., from 1996-98. He was the athletics director, administrator and head football coach for St. Michael's Academy in Austin, Texas, from 1995-96.

Dalton last coached collegiately at Purdue, as receivers coach (1990). He coached running backs at Texas Southern (1988-89), wide receivers at Wisconsin (1986-87), and defensive backs and running backs at Western Illinois (1984-85). Dalton played college football for Air Force Academy in 1981-82 and for Western Illinois in 1983-84.

Q: Did you sense his maturity level and work ethic when you scouted Mewelde Moore?
A: I was one of the coaches at the NFL Combine that was doing the drills with the players, so I was on the field. There were about four of us from different teams in the league that had that advantage of working with the kids directly while we were on the field. Besides the interview process that every team goes through with them, we got a little extra time with them. The one thing I noticed was how focused he was on the field and how quickly he picked up on things. Whatever drill we ran, he picked up on how to do it right away.

Q: Could playing minor league baseball in the summer and balancing that with playing major college football and earning a double degree have attributed to him being a consummate professional?
A: I would think it would. Obviously he was in college, but he played summer league baseball and it had to help, without a doubt. He's a rock-solid kid character-wise. He has a strong association with his family and that shows. They've been very positive influences. He works really hard to achieve his goals and complete any task he starts. He has a double degree, he played major football at Tulane and balanced that with minor league baseball. The kid can handle the emotional load that can be a burden.

Q: What's the biggest challenge that faces Moore?
A: Because there is no substitute for experience, he's got a special football awareness and football sense about him. Experience will help his football savvy, too.

Q: At some point over the past two or so years, Michael Bennett, Onterrio Smith, Moe Williams and Moore have all been successful featured backs for the Vikings. Denver boasts about producing running backs, but can any team match Minnesota's depth at running back?
A: I really don't think so. That's why there's a sign in our room that says, "Through this door pass the No. 1 running backs in the National Football League." You can see that in the level of production we bring in pass protection, as receivers in our passing game, and in addition to how we're going to contribute in the running game.

Q: The Vikings recently broke an NFL record by maintaining at least a 4.0-yard team rushing average for 15 consecutive games. The previous record was 14 straight games held by the 1964 Cleveland Browns and the 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers. The Browns were led by Jim Brown, the Steelers by Franco Harris. What does that record mean to you, the running backs coach?
A: It makes me very proud of the group. Even though it's a primadona position, each guy is unselfish toward personal things. Each one puts the team first. That's why this team's special. Our group is a microcosm of that team personality and focus.

Q: How difficult is it to be Larry Ned, fifth on the depth chart behind so many talented backs?
A: He's in a tough situation because he's an extremely talented runner who we have a lot of faith and confidence in. He's been asked to handle a role, kind of like the Minutemen. He has to be ready to go, but he doesn't get the repetitions in practice to be prepared for that.

Q: Butchie Wallace is on the practice squad and, in essence, the sixth and final back on the Vikings' depth chart. What are his goals week to week?
A: You always have to be ready to go. At some point in time all of these guys have been in that role. That's the thing about our team. Mike [Tice's] philosophy is to develop our own talent. You encourage Butchie to go out every day and give the best look for our defense to prepare for the next opponent.

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