MANKATO, Minn. (WCCO) — There are great stories every year in training camp, as football players give it their best to try to earn one of the 53 spots on the roster.
And this year in Vikings training camp is one of the more unusual stories you’ll hear.
He’s never played a down in an NFL game.
He’s only played seven total games in college. And that ended six years ago.
He’s a 27-year-old, trying to make an NFL roster for the first time – playing a position, tight end, that he’s never played before.
Nick Truesdell knows he’s a longshot. But the fact that he’s here at all is quite the story. And he’s grateful for it.
Truesdell enrolled at the University of Cincinnati in 2008, to play receiver. But he lasted just six games into his freshman year before he was kicked off the team for stealing from the campus bookstore. It got worse from there, as he spent time in jail for theft, breaking and entering, and drug trafficking.
“I just kind of made some dumb decisions when I was going into college,” Truesdell said. “And I was just kind of used to being handed everything. And being able to do what I wanted to do, without any consequences.”
He hasn’t been in trouble since, and hasn’t been handed anything since either. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite. Everything has come the hard way.
In 2011 he enrolled at Grand Rapids Community College, and promptly tore his ACL in the very first game, of what turned out to be Grand Rapids’ final season – they cancelled the football program at the end of the year.
“Yeah,” Truesdell acknowledged with a laugh.
He took the next two years off, rehabbing his knee, and working security and valet at a car dealership.
“I had to get a job and stuff like that,” Truesdell said.
For the last four years, he’s been playing arena football – in Colorado, Bemidji, Spokane, Portland, Arizona, then Cleveland.
Then finally, he caught the eye of the Vikings at the veteran combine in March – a thing that’s only ever been held twice.
Quite a road to get to Mankato.
“Yeah, definitely,” Truesdell said. “It’s definitely been kind of a crazy road for sure. Had to overcome a lot of obstacles, and I’ve definitely had to come a different route than most people.”
He’d always played receiver in the past, but bulked up to play tight end. And since guys who are 6-foot-6, 250 pounds and can run a 4.6 forty-yard-dash and catch passes don’t exactly grow on trees, the Vikings are giving him a chance.
How does playing arena football translate to the NFL?
“Um,” Truesdell said with a laugh, “it actually doesn’t translate much with playing tight end. Because there’s no tight ends, there’s just big receivers. And there’s not a lot of blocking, because you don’t really run the ball. But the one thing I can take away from it, is the game moves a lot faster.
“I think I’ve had a good camp so far. And I just can’t wait to get to the preseason games to really show what I can do.”
Truesdell has waited a long time for this opportunity. He’s from the same hometown, plays the same position, and is the same age as Kyle Rudolph, but taken a wildly different path to the same place.
He realizes it was his own mistakes that started him down this long, winding, zig-zagging path to Mankato, but is embracing where life has now brought him.
“If I could go back and change it, I mean yeah I probably would,” he said. “But I also think it was kind of a good thing because it kind of made me grow up faster, and just learned a lot of things. And I think I’m a better person for it now.”