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Mike Priefer
Special Teams Coordinator

BIOGRAPHY

Mike Priefer enters his 5th year with the Vikings organization as the Special Teams Coordinator. The 14-year NFL coaching veteran has held the same title with the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs in years past.

Priefer’s special teams units are known for creating big-play opportunities. Since entering the NFL, Priefer has seen his units account for 20 scores (9 KOR, 6 PR, 3 blocked punts, 1 botched fake FG and 1 safety). He has also seen his squads block 22 kicks (9 punts, 8 FGs, 5 PATs) since 2002. Since Priefer joined the Vikings in 2011, Minnesota is tied with the Ravens and Eagles for the most special teams TDs with 8 (4 KOR, 2 PR and 2 blocked punts) over that 4-year span.

Mike Priefer enters his 5th year with the Vikings organization as the Special Teams Coordinator. The 14-year NFL coaching veteran has held the same title with the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs in years past.

Priefer’s special teams units are known for creating big-play opportunities. Since entering the NFL, Priefer has seen his units account for 20 scores (9 KOR, 6 PR, 3 blocked punts, 1 botched fake FG and 1 safety). He has also seen his squads block 22 kicks (9 punts, 8 FGs, 5 PATs) since 2002. Since Priefer joined the Vikings in 2011, Minnesota is tied with the Ravens and Eagles for the most special teams TDs with 8 (4 KOR, 2 PR and 2 blocked punts) over that 4-year span.

Since joining the NFL, Priefer has helped David Tyree (ST), Chris Hanson (P), Blair Walsh (K) and Cordarrelle Patterson (RS) earn Pro Bowl nods.  Both Walsh and Patterson were named 1st-team All Pro as rookies. Priefer went to the playoffs with the Giants in 2005 (NFC East Champions), 2006 with Kansas City (Wild Card) and 2012 with the Vikings (Wild Card). In 2012, Priefer was named Special Teams Coach of the Year as voted on by his NFL counterparts and his units ranked #1 in the NFL by the acclaimed Dallas Morning News’ special teams rankings.

In 2014, Priefer’s special teams units showcased a young nucleus of return men, a long-range kicker and a rapidly improving punter. The Vikings special teams were ranked 10th in the NFL by the annual report by the Dallas Morning News. His kick return unit ranked 2nd in the NFL in starting position at the 25.1 yard line. The opponents’ kickoff return average was 4th lowest in the league with only a 20.7 kick return average. Cordarrelle Patterson and Marcus Sherels continue to be one of the NFL’s most dangerous return tandems. Patterson was tied for 6th in the NFL, and ranked 2nd in the NFC, with his 25.6 kick return average. Sherels’ 11.0 punt return average was 6th in the NFL and 3rd in the NFC.  Sherels’ 10.5 career punt return average is tops in franchise history. Blair Walsh would add 5 FGs of 50+ yards during the season, improving his team-record to 17 career FGs of 50+ yards. Since entering the NFL in 2012, Walsh is tied with Phil Dawson for the most 50+ yard FGs makes with 17. After completing his 2nd NFL season, punter Jeff Locke holds a franchise record with a 38.9 career net punting average. During Week 13 vs. Carolina (11/30/14), the Vikings punt block unit moved into the NFL record books for becoming just the 5th team in NFL history to block 2 punts and return both for TDs in the same game. It was the 1st time in team history with 2 blocked punt TDs and the 1st blocked punt TD since 1986. WR Adam Thielen blocked the first punt and returned it 30 yards for the TD becoming only the 4th Viking to block, recover and score in team history and the 1st since 1973. 2 drives later, LB Jasper Brinkley blocked another punt and DE Everson Griffen scooped up the ball and returned in 43 yards for the TD, the longest blocked punt return TD in team history. Thielen would win NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his performance. Safety Andrew Sendejo would lead the team with 13 special teams tackles and also set a team record for the longest rush on a fake punt when he gained 48 yards to set up a Vikings TD at Chicago (11/16/14).        

In 2013, the Vikings showcased the #1 KR man in the NFL, Cordarrelle Patterson, and the #2 PR man in Marcus Sherels. Patterson was named 1st team All-Pro and selected to the Pro Bowl after his record-breaking season. Patterson was also named NFC Special Teams Player of the Month for September and NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his Week 8 performance vs. Green Bay. The rookie broke the Vikings’ single-season kick return record with 1,393 kick return yards, on 43 returns, and a 32.4 return average with 2 KR TDs, leading the NFL in all categories. The 32.4 KR average is 4th highest in the NFL since the 1970 merger and highest since 1985. Patterson tied the single-season team-record with 2 KR TDs (105t, 109t), also leading the NFL. Patterson’s 109-yard KR TD (10/27/13 vs. GB) was the longest kick return in NFL history. With two returns of 105+ yards, Patterson is tied for the most plays over 105 yards in NFL history with Ed Reed and Jacoby Jones. The Vikings average starting position was the 27.2 yard line in 2013. That is the best starting position in the NFL since the NFL moved kick-offs to the 35-yard line in 2010. Not to be outdone, PR Marcus Sherels set the team-record with a 15.2 PR average, good for 2nd in the NFL. Sherels returned 22 punts for 335 yards with a long return of 86 yards for a TD against the New York Giants (10/21/13), the 2nd PR TD of his career, tying a franchise record.  Sherels recorded 119 punt return yards against the Giants, a Vikings record for a single game. Sherels posted 2 returns (86t, 50) over 50 yards in 2013, most in a single-season by a Vikings punt returner. With 4 50+ yard punt returns in his career, Sherels is tied for the franchise high. Rookie punter Jeff Locke closed out the season well and set the team rookie-record with a gross average of 44.2 yards per punt. His 39.2 net average ranked 3rd in team history. Blair Walsh set the franchise record with his 12th career 50+ yard FG (9/29/13 vs. Pit), passing Ryan Longwell in only his 2nd NFL season. His 12 consecutive 50+ yard FGs was also an NFL record. By connecting on 4 50+ yard FGs in 4 consecutive games (12/16/12-9/8/13), Walsh set an NFL record for most consecutive games with a FG over 50 yards. Walsh was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his efforts during Week 12 at Green Bay after going 4-4 on FGs and recording 5 touchbacks.    

The 2012 season saw the Vikings’ special teams units reach new heights. The Vikings punt and kick return coverage units allowed 0 TDs on the season while ranking 3rd in the NFC with an opponent start average at the 20.8 yard line. Priefer’s KOR unit ranked 2nd in the NFL with a 24.6 average start following kickoffs. Rookie kicker Blair Walsh made NFL history going 10-10 on FGs of 50+ yards while being selected to his first Pro Bowl along with being named 1st-Team All Pro by the AP. Walsh tacked on another NFL record with 3 50+ (50,51,53) FGs in a game (at St. Louis, 12/16/12). Walsh set a Vikings record with 53 touchbacks in 2012 and tied the longest FG in franchise history with a 56 yarder (at Houston, 12/23/12). Walsh’s 53 touchbacks and 92.1 FG % (35-38) were NFL rookie records. To bookend the season, Walsh connected on game-tying (55) and game-winning (38) FGs in Week 1 vs. Jacksonville, the 1st rookie kicker in NFL history to hit game-tying and game-winning FGs in his 1st NFL game. In Week 17, Walsh sent the Vikings to the playoffs with a 29-yard FG against Green Bay (12/30) as time expired. Walsh was named ST Player of the Week 3 times in 2012 while being the NFC ST Player of the Month in December.

The return game shined in Week 4 at Detroit (9/30) where KR Percy Harvin took back the opening kickoff 105 yards for a TD. Not to be left out, PR Marcus Sherels returned a punt 77-yards for his 1st NFL TD in the victory over the Lions. As a unit, the Vikings committed the fewest turnovers (0), made the most FGs (35) and allowed the fewest points (0) in the NFL on special teams. The Dallas Morning News ranked the Vikings special teams as tops in the NFL. 

Priefer could not have asked for a better start to the 2011 season, his 1st in Minnesota. Harvin took the opening kickoff, Week 1 at San Diego, 103 yards for a TD. Harvin later made NFL history in Week 12 at Atlanta when he returned a kickoff 104 yards before being stopped at the 3-yard line. It was the longest non-scoring play in League history. The Vikings set a team record in 2011 with a 26.9 average on KORs, good for 2nd in the NFL.

During the 2010 season Priefer had 3 players rank in the Top 10 in each of their respective categories. Eddie Royal was 6th in the NFL with an 11.9 punt return average. Rookie Eric Decker was 10th in KOR average at 25.3 per return. Kicker Matt Prater was tied for 6th in TBs with 20. 

In his 1st year as the Broncos’ special teams coordinator in 2009, Priefer led a unit that placed 3rd in the league in average opponent drive start after kickoffs (22.9-yard line) and featured 2 AFC Special Teams Player of the Month winners (K Matt Prater and KR/PR Eddie Royal).

Royal in 2009 became only the 11th player in NFL history to have both a kickoff and punt return for a TD in the same game (at San Diego, 10/19/09) while placing 7th in the league in punt return average (11.2 yds.). Prater finished the year making 19 of his final 20 FG attempts and tied for the 3rd-most FGs for a season in club history (30).

Before joining the Broncos, Priefer coordinated Kansas City’s special teams from 2006-08 following stints as an assistant special teams coach with the NY Giants (2003-05) and Jacksonville (2002). His coaching career began at his alma mater, the U.S. Naval Academy, as a GA in 1994, and he owns 21 years of experience at the professional and collegiate levels.

During his 3 seasons as the Chiefs’ special teams coach from 2006-08, Priefer helped Dustin Colquitt register, at the time, the 3rd-best net punting average (39.2 yds.) and the 6th-best gross average (44.8 yds.) in the NFL for that period. Colquitt’s net averages for each of his 3 seasons under Priefer ranked as the top-3 single-season performances in Chiefs history, at that time.

Kansas City also placed 5th in the AFC in opponent PR average (8.2 yds.) in Priefer’s 3 seasons and blocked a total of 4 kicks (3 punts, 1 FG) during that period.

In 2008, Colquitt ranked 7th in the NFL in net average (39.2 yds.) under Priefer’s guidance with the Chiefs, who also scored a TD that year on a botched opponent fake FG attempt. Priefer’s kickoff coverage unit was one of the league’s best a year earlier with Kansas City finishing the 2007 season 5th in the NFL in opponent average drive start after kickoffs (26.1-yd. line).

During Priefer’s 1st year with the Chiefs in 2006, Colquitt set a franchise season record with a 39.3-yard net average that led the NFL. Priefer’s special teams also tied for the NFL lead with 2 blocked punts, including 1 returned for a TD, and accounted for 1 PR TD (Dante Hall, 60 yds.).

As assistant special teams coach for the Giants from 2003-05, Priefer coached a unit that tied for 3rd in the league with 3 KOR TDs and adding 1 PR TD during that period. The Giants blocked 7 kicks (3 punts, 3 FGs and 1 PAT) with Priefer on staff, and the coach worked with David Tyree during the 2005 season when the WR earned Pro Bowl honors as a cover man.

The Giants’ special teams in 2005 placed 2nd in the NFL in the comprehensive rankings compiled by The Dallas Morning News. Priefer worked with a unit that year that included a Pro Bowler (Tyree) and the league’s top-scoring kicker (Jay Feely - 148 pts.) while ranking 4th in the league in average starting position after kickoffs (30.7-yard line).

In 2003, Priefer helped the Giants tie for 2nd in the NFL with 4 blocked kicks (2 punts, 1 FG, 1 PAT) during that campaign.

Priefer entered the NFL coaching ranks with the Jaguars in 2002 as their assistant special teams coach. That season, punter Chris Hanson earned the 1st Pro Bowl selection of his career after leading the AFC in both gross (44.2 yds.) and net (37.6 yds.) average. Jacksonville also posted 1 PR TD (Bobby Shaw, 69 yds.) and 2 blocked kicks (1 punt, 1 FG).

From 1994-2001, Priefer coached special teams at the collegiate level, working for Navy (1994-96), Youngstown State (1997-98), VMI (1999) and Northern Illinois (2000-01).

Priefer’s instruction at Northern Illinois helped WR Justin McCareins earn MAC Special Teams Player of the Year honors in 2000. His 19.1 punt return average was 3rd best in the nation. Along with coaching the Huskies’ special teams, Priefer coached DTs during his 2 seasons at NIU.

He spent a season at VMI in 1999, coaching its special teams and inside LBs, after a 2-year stint at Youngstown State under Head Coach Jim Tressel. He worked with the special teams, tackles and tight ends at Youngstown State and was part of its Division I-AA National Championship squad in 1997.

Priefer began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Navy in 1994, instructing its special teams that season before coaching its LBs and defensive line from 1995-96. He also coached special teams and served as defensive coordinator for Navy’s junior varsity team from 1995-96.

A QB and WR on Navy’s junior varsity and lightweight teams from 1985-88, Priefer flew helicopters as a Naval officer for 6 years (1989-94) after his graduation. His work included tours of duty on the USS America in the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea.

Priefer owns a bachelor’s degree from the US Naval Academy from 1989 and received a master’s degree from the University of Maryland in 1997. His father, Chuck, was a long-time coach who worked in the NFL (Detroit, Green Bay and San Diego) for 17 seasons and coached at the collegiate level for 12 years.

Priefer was born in Cleveland and moved frequently as a coach’s son, graduating from high school in Green Bay. He is married to Debbie, and the couple has four children: Samantha, Michael Jr., Wilson and Katie.

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