The path many take to the NFL isn't an easy one. For some, it involved years of hard work, a stellar college career, and off season work outs harder than any full time job. For others, they fight and scrape to get by, come from meager surroundings to miraculously fulfill their dreams of mega-millions and playing football on Sundays.
Regardless of how a certain player gets to the NFL, the basic message anyone will tell you is that it takes hard work. Old adages of "Any moment you're not working to get better, you're getting worse" or "While others rest, you best them" will leave the mouth of any former or current NFL player. Many credit their hard work and perseverance as a critical component of why they were able to make it to the NFL.
For a player like Nebraska cornerback - and possible Minnesota Vikings draft target - Alfonzo Dennard, that means showing a willingness to not take even the weekend before the NFL draft off, and knowing your potential future team's needs like the back of your hand. And, punching a cop. Allegedly.
Dennard took it upon himself to assure that the Vikings didn't forget him this past weekend. In an alleged incident happening in Lincoln, Nebraska early Saturday morning, Dennard was arrested for suspicion of assaulting a police officer after he allegedly struck one while the boys in blue were attempting to break up a bar fight which Dennard was involved in. He was taken to custody and held in a Lincoln jail over the weekend.
Some may look at this instance and shake their head. "Why would a player a week away from making potentially millions of dollars throw it all away?! Why even put themselves in this position? Are they stupid?!" Quite the opposite in fact.
Dennard is one of the many draft prospects that have caught the eye of the Minnesota Vikings this season. The Vikings have their draft picks locked (barring a trade), and already have the character of the team well in hand. There is a clear need for a talented cornerback on the squad, and the Vikings have had their eye on Dennard since last fall when several personnel staff attended a Cornhuskers/Golden Gophers football game in Minneapolis. Dennard assuredly knew this, and knew the history of the team, as well.
As recent as the 2011 season, the Minnesota Vikings have had a long string of players involved in the law in unflattering ways. While people might think that EVERY NFL team has trouble players, the Vikings are truly unique in what they are trying to build under Leslie Frazier. Call it a "Betty Ford Clinic" for the NFL, or rename them the "Minnesota Hazeldens." The point being, Dennard clearly did his research since that visit to play the Gophers and has catered his behavior as best he could to a team he thinks could likely draft him. He was ejected from Nebraska's bowl game this last season for throwing punches at South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery, has had a rash of injuries that kept him off the field for parts of 2011, and has shown an inappropriate off-field aggression this past weekend. In summary? He'd be a perfect fit for the Vikings.
Dennard could pair with Antoine Winfield (when Winfield is healthy and not drinking prune juice on the sidelines) and Chris Cook (they could gang beat opposing receivers) to form a devastating combination at cornerback for several years. His presence would give the Vikings a toughness that they have only shown off the field in recent years; an ability to fight for yourself, and stand up to authority even if they bring a knife to a gun fight. Guns, of course, are in reference to his arm pythons.
In the end, it is hard to fault Dennard with this tactic. He's shown the hard work and tenacity in changing his behavior to become more aggressive in an attempt to attract teams like the Minnesota Vikings - and dedication to this act by engaging in behaviors even up until the last weekend before the draft - and done his homework on team needs. Would he be a perfect fit for the Vikings? It certainly looks like it, and if anything, the team will at the very least finally punch back after getting beat up so viciously in recent years.
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