Former Notre Dame center and 2007 captain John Sullivan could be the starting center for the Minnesota Vikings in 2009 after the Vikes failed to resign Pro-Bowl center Matt Birk. Sullivan, entering just his second season in the NFL did not register a single snap last year after being selected by Minnesota in the 6th round of the 2008 NFL Draft. As of now, he is the only center on the Minnesota roster and based on a few of the article I read, it seems like the starting position is his for the taking.
Charlie Weis used to rave about Sullivan during his time at Notre Dame, and Minnesota head coach Brad Childress has been offering his soon to be second year center some kind words as well.
“John Sullivan is a guy that football is important to,” Childress said. “He’s a smart guy. I will say he’s the first guy that has been back in the building (this offseason). I don’t know if he got bored in Connecticut or what. I looked up one day and he’s on the treadmill. I go, ‘What the heck are you doing here?’ He’s got A) football IQ, and he wants to be good.”
Sullivan went into last year’s draft as a four year starter for Notre Dame, but fell down draft boards in part because of Notre Dame’s lack of success in 2007 as well as some unimpressive numbers in the bench press and other drills at the combine. He also had some bad habits like snapping the ball over the quarterback’s head in the shotgun on his senior year film that did nothing to help his draft stock. Still, the Vikings used a late round pick on him based on his potential.
“We thought Sullivan was a very good player last year in the preseason,” vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman said last week. “He was a great value pick. … I’m sure there will be some growing pains, but eventually they have to play. They have to get out there and learn and do it.”
Sullivan obviously seems to be excited about getting the chance to start this early in his career – especially since most people thought Birk would resign with the Vikings because he was such an active member of the community as a Minnesota native. Birk’s departure, however, has opened the door for Sullivan and it sounds as though he plans on taking the opportunity seriously. He has also made mention of his time at Notre Dame as a reason for feeling he is ready to assume a starter’s role.
“I think I had a pretty good jump-start on that because I had the same responsibilities at Notre Dame and we ran a pro-style offense,” he said. “Obviously you have to get on the same page with everybody here and learn all the terminology. Some of the concepts are slightly tweaked so you have to get used to thinking about how you’re going to attack a defense and protect the quarterback in a different light.”
Sullivan’s 2007 season for Notre Dame did not go as anyone had hoped it would, but having another former Notre Dame player as a starting offensive lineman in the NFL is a very good thing for Notre Dame on the recruiting front. For that reason alone, everyone should be rooting for Sullivan to succeed in his quest to lock down the starting spot in the middle of Minnesota offensive line.