#44, Thomas Tapeh, FB
(6013, 243, 4.73-4.83) Minnesota
Notes: Born Thomas Teah Tapeh (pronounced Tuh-PAY) 3/28/80, in Monrovia, Liberia. He grew up in Liberia before moving to the Twin Cities at the age of nine. Was a USA Today second-team All American and Minnesota State player of the year at Johnson High School in St. Paul and holds the City Conference records for points in a career (296), season (158), game (37), and TDs in a game (6). He rushed for 1,845 yards on 208 carries (8.9 avg.) with 27 touchdowns in eight games as a senior. Also played some linebacker, handled some kicking duties and averaged 40 yards as a punter. He also lettered as a forward on the basketball team and competed in track. Finished fifth in the state with a throw of 166’-5” in the discus and qualified for the state tournament in the shot put and the 100-meters.
Single, and resided in Sicklerville, NJ, during the season when he was with the Eagles. His family lives in a home in St. Paul that was built by Habitat for Humanity, a house Tapeh helped build. His younger brother, Tim Massaquoi, is a tight end for the Buffalo Bills. Grew up without a father in his life, but received special guidance from Von Shepard, his high school guidance counselor, and Steven Scroggins, his junior high basketball coach. Shepard once had a tryout with the Vikings.
During the offseason, utilizes Bikram Yoga three times a week to complement his workout regimen, a practice he adopted while rehabbing from a hip injury he sustained as a rookie. “During the rehabilitation process with my hip, I felt I needed to push myself more and to loosen my hip much more,” Tapeh said. “You get used to the 110 degree temperature for the hour and a half session, but it's very tiring. When you leave, you feel great.”
Believing that he would return to action from the hip injury a better player due to an intense rehabilitation, Tapeh changed his number from 41 to 38 after reading the following verse from 1 Corinthians 3:8: “The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.” He considers himself a devout Christian.
College: Tapeh turned down a scholarship offer from Michigan to attend Minnesota. Sat out in 1999 as a partial qualifier. Played in 7 games in 2000 before injuring his right foot in late October and having surgery that sidelined him for the rest of the season. Finished with 81 carries for 344 yards (4.2 avg.) and 2 touchdowns; also caught 3-36-1. Also completed a 64-yard option pass for a touchdown against Penn State. Injured his left foot in the spring of 2001 and missed the season opener in the fall, but returned to rush 12-71-1, while starting three games at fullback. Played in all 13 games in 2002, starting three, as he rushed 181-908-8 and caught 7-93-2. He played in every game in 2003, starting four, as he rushed 119-570-11 and caught 8-86-0. He was part of a three-man rotation at running back and finished third on the team in rushing. He set a school bowl record for touchdowns (3) in Sun Bowl win over Oregon. He graduated in May of 2003 with a degree in family social sciences and youth studies.
Checked in at 6013, 242 pounds coming out of college, with a mere 7.6% body fat. Measured 31 1/8-inch arms and 9 ½-inch hands. Did 23 reps at 225 pounds. Ran a 1.65 10-yard dash, 2.79 20-yard dash, 4.80 40-yard dash. Posted a 33-inch vertical jump, 9’-6” broad jump, 4.38 20-yard shuttle, 12.10 60-yard shuttle and 7.13 3-cone drill time. Also posted a 430-pound bench press and 630-pound squat.
Pro: Originally a fifth-round draft pick (162 overall) by the Eagles in 2004. Played in 7 games as a rookie, playing primarily on special teams (3 tackles); finished with 12 rushes for 42 yards (3.5 avg.) with a long run of 10 yards, while catching 2-15. Suffered a dislocated hip in late December and finished the year on injured reserve. He spent the entire 2005 campaign on the PUP/Reserve list while rehabilitating from the hip injury. Came back to start 8-of-16 games in 2006 and 2007. Rushed 5-9-0 and caught 16-85-1 in 2006. Rushed 5-18-0 and caught 8-50-0 in 2007. Was the primary lead blocker for Brian Westbrook who rushed for 1,217 yards (2006) and 1,333 yards (2007) the past two seasons.
Signed as an unrestricted free agent by the Vikings on 2/29/08, agreeing to a five-year contract worth $6 million, with just over $1 million in guaranteed money. Will wear #44.
Positives: A solid blocking fullback. He’s an effective lead blocker who also understands the pass blocking schemes and requirements for the position in the West Coast Offense. Has good hands and can catch the ball out away from his body. Well-built player who works extremely hard and brings outstanding character. Big, punishing, physical runner with some vision and cutback ability. Shows some power and can move the pile a bit. Keeps his feet moving on contact. Has played on special teams.
Negatives: Lacks top elusiveness and speed as a runner. Isn’t a truly dominant blocker or exceptionally natural pass receiver. A bit of a manufactured player.
Summary: A nice fit for his prescribed role in the WCO, where he will do an effective job as a lead blocker, pick up the blitz, catch a few passes and occasionally convert a short-yardage rushing attempt. Tapeh (27) should pick up where the much older Tony Richardson (36) left off in terms of helping open some holes for Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor, while keeping blitzers off quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.
What they say:
“I’m excited to have this type of player as well as this type of person.” - Brad Childress at Tapeh’s introductory press conference
“Well, it’s the west coast offense. There really won’t be too much different (from Philadelphia’s offense). Everyone’s got a job to do and you just have to go out there and do it to the best of your ability. I’m here now and I’ll do what they ask me to do.” - Tapeh
“He was able to carry the ball a little bit this year, and I think the other thing is one of the prerequisites is that the guy has good hands as a fullback out of the backfield. The protection goes without speaking, but he does have those good hands and has a little bit of make-you-miss, and he can cover you up and run his feet.” - Childress