Undrafted rookie Tim Mattran is used to people doubting him, at least in his athletic endeavors.
Mattran, who signed with the Vikings in the hours following the 2008 NFL Draft, was a walk-on at Stanford and finds himself in a similar role right now with the Minnesota Vikings.
"It's that same kind of underdog mentality. I have to fight for anything that I earn on the team," he said. "I'm used to that and I think it's a situation that I thrive in personally. When I get backed up into a corner, I'm going to fight my way out, so that's what I expect being here."
Mattran will have an uphill battle. Pro Bowler Matt Birk is expected to rejoin the team for mandatory offseason practices and resume his starting role in the preseason. The Vikings also have a number of potential backups at center returning from last year's squad, along with sixth-round draft pick John Sullivan from Notre Dame.
But Mattran is most excited to begin learning from Birk.
"Right away, I'm going to be learning from somebody that's here. Who better to learn it from than somebody who does it better than anybody else in the NFL?" Mattran said.
Mattran, who talked to about 10 teams leading up the draft, had to make a choice between offers from Minnesota and Baltimore once the draft concluded. With the opportunity to learn from Birk and return to the area where he grew up, Minnesota became his choice.
"I kind of knew going in that I wasn't going to get drafted and if I did it was going to be late," Mattran said. "The priority free-agent thing was kind of the plan all along. (I) had a lot talks with my agent about what to expect from that. The situation here is really what I was expecting to come into."
Conveniently, he already had plenty of connections to the Vikings. Offensive line coach Pat Morris had been working on Mattran throughout the offseason and had his own connections.
Morris had coached two years at Stanford (1995-96) and then with the San Francisco 49ers (1997-2003), where Mattran's agent, Eric Wiesel, developed a relationship with Morris.
"I talked with Coach Morris a couple of times during the week leading into (the draft)," Mattran said. "My agent worked with Coach Morris at the 49ers several years ago, I guess. So they've known each other for a long time. I felt I had a chance to really let the coaches here get to know who I was before draft day."
Mattran is a class valedictorian at Stanford who made four Pac-10 All-Academic teams and was smart enough growing up in Chanhassen, Minn., that he skipped the fourth grade. Of course, his college career made up for that – he spent six years at Stanford, including a medical redshirt season in 2006 with a right leg injury. He came back to start every game in 2007 and has the added experience of playing guard and tackle as well.
Right now, however, it's a process of starting over for the 6-foot-4, 308-pound center, despite being somewhat familiar with the offensive scheme.
"I feel like a freshman in college again," Mattran said. "Rather than having to come in and learn everything, the schemes are similar – it's just a lot of new words. So it's just putting together old knowledge with new knowledge and get out there and do what I can."
Mattran Ready to Battle for Roster Spot
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