From Ivy League intern to wide receivers coach in the NFL, Drew Petzing has had quite the journey.
Mark Craig of the Star Tribune recently chronicled Petzing’s coaching journey after the Vikings promoted him from assistant quarterbacks coach in 2018 to Minnesota’s newest receivers coach heading into the 2019 campaign. Craig wrote:
Petzing’s career path … is a classic tale of just how big an NFL-sized work ethic is and how far it can carry someone this passionate about coaching football.
Told that his is an NFL story that gets lost in the shadows of big-name head coaches, $84 million quarterbacks and persistent Division II receivers from Mankato, the 32-year-old Petzing laughs again.
“Well,” Petzing told Craig, “guys like me are a lot easier to find than those other ones you mention.”
Craig covered Petzing’s start as a student volunteer at Middlebury College, to an unpaid internship with the coaching staff at Harvard, to two years as a graduate assistant at Boston College.
Next, Petzing took a job as linebackers coach at Yale University, and he told Craig he had “no intention of leaving.” And yet, a year later he left for Cleveland.
[Current Cowboys linebackers coach Ben] Bloom and another former Harvard coach, Dave Borgonzi, now the linebackers coach with the Colts, were coaching interns in Dallas. When the Browns called Dallas looking for tips on setting up a similar coaching internship under first-year coach Rob Chudzinski, Bloom and Borgonzi recommended Petzing.
Petzing helped Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton put his playbook together. He helped in every position room in the building. He helped run the scout team. And when a player got cut or signed, Petzing drove them to or from the airport.
In 2014, Petzing joined the Vikings as a coaching assistant under Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner. He then worked as the assistant wide receivers coach under Darrell Hazell before moving to assistant quarterbacks coach with Kevin Stefanski in 2018.
When Hazell’s contract expired, Petzing was promoted. His top two players are Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, the league’s most productive receiving tandem.
“You can look at me and probably tell I didn’t play,” Petzing joked with Craig. “It’s definitely a big thing.” But one he’s outworked.
“Even the [most skeptical] players, if they think you know what you’re talking about and have something that can help them, more often than not they’re all ears,” Petzing said. “That was important early in my career and is going to continue to be important as I hopefully move up in this industry.”
Harris tabbed as one of PFF’s ‘surprises’ of 2018 season
The Vikings coaches’ appreciation for Anthony Harris is nothing new.
Harris, whom the Vikings signed as an undrafted free agent in 2015, has been a dynamic special teamer as well as a reliable reserve at safety. He stepped in for an injured Andrew Sendejo in 2018, starting nine of the 15 games he played.
Analytics site Pro Football Focus recently highlighted 10 players who were considered “surprises” in the 2018 season. PFF’s Michael Renner wrote:
Every year we see performances that make us say, ‘How did that happen?’ Whether it’s a later round draft pick establishing himself as an elite player, a backup thrust into a starting role who outplays the starter, or someone who came back sooner than expected from an injury. This article is for them, the most surprising performers from the 2018 season.
Included on Renner’s list was Harris, of whom he wrote the following:
After never playing more than 254 snaps in a season since going undrafted in 2015, Harris earned an 89.0 overall grade on 624 snaps this year.
Joining Harris in the group was NFC North rival and fellow safety, Chicago’s Eddie Jackson.
He was nice for a fourth-round rookie in 2017, but nothing suggested he’d be the best safety in the NFL this past year. Jackson led all safeties in both picks (6) and pass breakups (8) in 2018.
Renner’s full list was Colts QB Andrew Luck, 49ers TE George Kittle, Bengals WR Tyler Boyd, Rams G Austin Blythe, Jackson, Seahawks DT Poona Ford, Harris, Chiefs DE Dee Ford, Texans CB Kareem Jackson and Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith.