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Alexander Mattison Eager and Ready for Leading Role

EAGAN, Minn. — Vikings running back Alexander Mattison doesn't credit a family member, former coach, or even a Jugs machine for teaching him to catch.

"I had a college teammate (Avery Williams) who plays for the Falcons right now. And he used to always tell me I couldn't catch," Mattison said Thursday at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center. "So late nights and hours of catching with him and arguing with him made my hands better."

The hours Mattison spends improving as a pass catcher is an example of the effort he's put into becoming a starting running back. Mattison signed a two-year, $7 million contract to remain in Minnesota this offseason.

The Vikings committed to him as their No. 1 running back after releasing Dalvin Cook in June.

"You dream of the day that you're a starting running back in the NFL. To be in this position, this is a true blessing," Mattison said. "For those guys to believe me, it's a true honor. And for me to be back here, it's just really one of those things where you're in a place where they want you, where they love you, and they support you. And it's my job now to go out there and make their decision right."

Offensive Coordinator Wes Phillips believes Mattison is ready to handle the responsibilities of a starting running back. From carrying the ball, to pass protection and being a receiving threat, Phillips said the fifth-year running back can do it all.

"He's multifaceted in the run game, in pass protection, and then his hands in the pass game, and route running ability," Phillips said. "I think we're gonna see a lot of good things, and maybe people didn't realize how good a player Alexander Mattison really is."

View photos of players during 2023 Vikings Training Camp practice on July 27 at the TCO Performance Center.

In six career starts, Mattison has averaged 4.1 yards per carry, 9.4 yards per reception and has scored five total touchdowns. Despite backing up Cook, he's played 1,100 offensive snaps since entering the league in 2019.

The Vikings trust Mattison. Phillips, Head Coach Kevin O'Connell and General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah witnessed his reliability and playmaking as a backup last season. Now as the starter, Mattison will be a key cog in a Vikings offense that could see defenses implementing two-high safeties to try to stymie Minnesota's passing attack.

"When you're playing with a guy like Justin [Jefferson] on the outside, then you've got some playmakers in [Jordan] Addison, K.J. Osborn and T.J. Hockenson, those guys definitely bring something to the table that makes defenses play a little different," Mattison said. "So I have to be a student of the game and understand where I can find those weak spots and take advantage of that in my own role."

View the best photos of Vikings RB Alexander Mattison from the 2022 season.

On Thursday, Mattison looked fast on a delayed handoff run for an explosive gain.

"He's a talented guy when he's running," Phillips said. "He's always going forward. He's got more wiggle than I think some people give him credit for. There were a lot of times when he made the free guy in the hole miss last year."

Off the field and in the meeting rooms, he's stepping up as a leader too. Phillips said he's also excited to see Nwangwu, Ty Chandler, and rookie DeWayne McBride compete in camp.

The Vikings will use training camp to find their No. 2 running back — role Mattison once owned but has since parlayed into the starting job.

"I'm excited (to) put my own twist on some things and for them to have the confidence in us, you know, in that running back room to start to make it our own," Mattison said. "I think it's only a matter of time. I'm going to keep getting better each day, and, in the end, the hard work will speak for itself."