Mike Zimmer talks up Hercules Mata’afa

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Vikings defensive lineman Hercules Mata'afa has a labor this offseason that may be as challenging as slaying the Nemean Lion or capturing the Cretan Bull: He’s trying to go from undrafted rookie with a torn ACL last year to starter in the NFL this year. So far, he’s performing well.

That’s the word from Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer, who said today on KFAN that Mata’afa has been “the surprise of camp” so far in Organized Team Activities.

Mata’Afa was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2017 and left school early to enter the 2018 NFL draft. However, he wasn’t drafted in part because he weighed in at just 254 pounds and no one was sure what position he would play at the next level. He then tore his ACL last summer and didn’t play in a game as a rookie.

Zimmer says Mata’Afa is now 275 pounds and plays on the defensive line the way defensive tackle Geno Atkins played for the Bengals when Zimmer was Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator. That’s high praise; Atkins was a first-team All-Pro when playing for Zimmer.

It would seem awfully premature to compare Mata’afa to Atkins, given that Mata’afa has still yet to play a snap in an NFL game. But Zimmer sounds awfully optimistic about Mata’afa’s chances of making an impact now that he’s healthy again.

19 responses to “Mike Zimmer talks up Hercules Mata’afa

  1. Just think 5 picks from that years packer draft are no longer in the league! Rick was pulling all of the strings while Gute was busy golfing!

  2. Vikings fans all knew Mata’afa had star potential during camp last year. He was already a stand out during practices then. It was a big disappointment to hear of his injury. It’s awesome to hear he seems to be right back where he left off. We’re hoping for another diamond in the rough guy, which Zim seems to do very well at finding for this position.

  3. It wouldn’t surprise me if Mataafa becomes a star player. Zimmer knows how the get the most out of his defensive players – Danielle Hunter comes to mind.

  4. Mataafa lived in the opposing teams’ backfield in college. His super quick first move made it hard for big linemen to get their hands on him and engage. He deserves a chance to show what he can do on Sundays. Oh, and GO COUGS!!

  5. He and Ade Aruna will be Zimmer’s next all pro defensive lineman. Bowers and Weatherly on deck to fight for #2 and #3 spots after Griffen leaves defensive end. Vikings are set on the defensive line for years to come.

  6. ariani1985 says:
    May 29, 2019 at 12:45 pm
    Just think 5 picks from that years packer draft are no longer in the league! Rick was pulling all of the strings while Gute was busy golfing!

    Gute became GM in 2018.

  7. The Vikings had another guy who was undrafted because he was too light to play D-line. He had several try-outs without success, until the Vikings gave him a chance. What was that guy’s name? Oh, yeah, John Randle!

    Not saying Mata’afa will be the next Randle, but I can dream!

  8. Would be cool to see a DT who entered the league at 250 not get abused in the run game

  9. Liberalsruineverything says:
    May 29, 2019 at 6:41 pm

    I agree with toothfairy, Zimmer doesn’t typically tout young guys that much unless he sees something special. Hopefully he’s a gem.


    He sure touted Bridgewater. Until he stopped.

  10. The Vikings have gotten lucky with people bouncing back from rookie injuries to have long successful careers. Hope the trend continues because the Vikings are in serious need of a DT.

  11. Well here is what I a reading into this, With a contract year for Linvall Joseph Zimmer is saying “If you don’t restructure, it will be see you later”.
    Gaining the weight is a good thing unless he looses it game time. He was a good player but it usually take 18-24 months to fully recover from an injury like that. There are a few Undrafted FA’s on the team that Spielman has picked better than some of the early round players.

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