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Ivan Pace, Jr., on Jersey Change & Confidence Boost for 2nd Vikings Season

LB Ivan Pace, Jr.
LB Ivan Pace, Jr.

EAGAN, Minn. — Ivan Pace, Jr., is ready to write the second chapter of his underdog story.

The second-year undrafted rookie out of Cincinnati spoke to Twin Cities media members Wednesday and was asked about his offseason and how he wants to build off last year.

"I'm just always working to get better," Pace said. "There's nothing to it, for real, just going out there and going into the offseason, I got my little break time and then I started to get right."

Pace was excited to get back to work, and the opportunity to have a longer offseason compared to his college career.

"I was ready to go right after like two, four months; it was pretty long," Pace said. "In college you don't really get that, you just go straight back into it. But it was nice to have a little offseason. I came back in and just wanted to get better at everything, footwork, coverage, my eyes, seeing everything."

Safety Josh Metellus shed some light on how he's seen Pace grow over the past year.

"I would say confidence. Undrafted linebacker, having communication but you're still trying to build trust with the guys. He's feeling more confident with the way he speaks to us in the huddle, the way goes about his work and is a lot more intentional," Metellus explained. "I think he made a big step this offseason, and he's still trying to do as much as he can to learn every day and be that student on the field. He's doing a good job."

LB Ivan Pace, Jr.
LB Ivan Pace, Jr.

Pace wore No. 40 as a rookie but this spring switched to No. 0, calling the change "a dream come true."

He wanted 0 as a rookie last season, but it had already been claimed by Marcus Davenport. When Davenport departed, Pace bolted for 0, which he began wearing as a sophomore at Miami (Ohio) and again in 2022 after transferring to Cincinnati.

He made a quick impact for the Bearcats and then again last year with the Vikings. His jersey number decreased, but his confidence has increased.

"I feel like it shows up all over the field, in the meeting rooms," he said. "I've got a lot of confidence in my team 'cause I know they've got my back and I've got their back."

Pace also spoke on potentially wearing the "green dot" helmet, which is issued to the player who has a headset in his helmet and relays calls from the sideline. He handled some of those duties in 2023.

"If that's good for the team for me to have the green dot, I know they brought in a couple of linebackers that have more experience and stuff, but if they can trust me enough to have the green dot, I'm ready for it," he said.

The green dot is something that Pace feels has led to some improvements in his game.

"Yeah, it definitely did because in college it wasn't revolved around me, so I did not have to do that much communication, but then when I came here, it made me think more and made me actually focus and break down what the offense is doing and what our defense is doing," Pace said. "So yeah, it actually helped a lot."

The Vikings made many changes to the linebackers room this offseason with the departure of middle linebacker Jordan Hicks and the additions of several players in the middle of the field, including linebackers Blake Cashman and Kamu Grugier-Hill, along with outside linebackers Andrew Van Ginkel and Jonathan Greenard.

Pace also expressed that he was excited about the incoming rookie class, mentioning defensive draft picks Dallas Turner at outside linebacker and Khyree Jackson at cornerback.

"I feel like we got a good rookie class," he said. "Last year we had a great rookie class, but I feel like this class is going to help us out a lot coming into the next season."