As is typical of most seventh-round draft picks, even fans and media types that were extremely prepared for knowing everything there is to know about the players that will be drafted were left for something of a loss when it came to the selection of linebacker Ryan D'Imperio of Rutgers.
A two-year starter at linebacker, the general impression was that he was simply going to be another body for minicamp and training camp that would fight it out with the crop of undrafted free agents and roster invitees for a spot as a special teams player and positional backup.
That was, until he started getting asked questions. Suddenly D'Imperio dropped an unexpected answer that put his odds of making the team in a completely different light. He was asked what he knew about the Vikings defense and he said he had met with several Vikings coaches, adding, "As far as defense goes, I'm going to be a fullback. I talked to the running backs coach (Eric Bieniemy) and that's what I'm going to come there to be."
D'Imperio was selected by the Vikings as one of the "Top 30" draft prospects each team is allowed to bring to its facility to work out and interview privately. It was during that meeting that the Vikings determined that if they were to select D'Imperio, they would do so as a fullback, not a linebacker. Although he hasn't played fullback since high school, D'Imperio said that, in his view, the assignments are pretty straightforward.
"It's all about collision blocking," D'Imperio said. "It's the same whether you're on offense or defense, you just don't have the ball in your hands. That's all that matters, to just go out there. Whatever they tell me to do, I'm going to do it the best I can. As far as learning, it's the same whether you're on offense or defense. You have to take stuff from the meeting room and apply it on the field. I feel like I do that very well."
D'Imperio wasn't able to be contacted for more than an hour after being drafted with the Vikings last pick – he was driving back to school from him family home and was in conversation with his agent about what teams might come calling if he made it through to the end of the draft and would be eligible to be signed as an undrafted free agent. He said he had been in contact with the Ravens, Chiefs, 49ers and Jets among others. Most were looking to offer a contract after the draft. The Vikings were willing to commit to a draft pick.
D'Imperio said the Vikings initiated the idea of moving him to the offensive side of the ball and he got put through his paces by Bieniemy and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who wanted to see where his blitz recognition acumen was at and whether he would be able to handle the Vikings' offensive playbook.
"That's something that we went over," D'Imperio said. "I met with (Bevell) and Coach Bieniemy – and it was great. I really thought that I clicked with them. The terminology and the playbook are a little bit different, but that's something that I can really adjust to. And I'll work on and off the field as hard as I can to get that down."
As a linebacker, D'Imperio's chances of making the 53-man roster were dim. However, with a competition for the fullback spot, his odds are markedly greater. His goal is to make the team by any means necessary.
When asked if he felt competing for the fullback position was the quickest way to get on the field for the Vikings, he said he isn't looking for any shortcuts and that his plan is to earn his way on the field by being a team player.
"Honestly, it's not about the quickest way to get on the field," D'Imperio said. "It's wherever I can help the team the most. Wherever they want, wherever they feel like I can help the team, that's what I want to do. Honestly, I just want to play. I can care less where I play or how I play. I just love the game and I want to play."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
D'Imperio now a ‘colllision' fullback
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