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Mike Wallace: A Guy Who's 'Coming to Work'

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —Deep threat is often the first football phrase associated with Mike Wallace.

Strong stats and*highlight reels* of indisputable video evidence support that descriptor. The newest Vikings receiver said Saturday at the team's Winter Park headquarters he wants to become better known for the hard work that occurs behind the scenes.

View images of new Vikings WR Mike Wallace from his days in Pittsburgh and Miami.

Wallace told Vikings.com he wants fans to be able to say, "He was a beast. He could do everything; he was a great guy in the community, a great guy off the field, but most importantly on the field, a hard worker."

"As long as everybody knows I work hard and I'm not taking this opportunity for granted, I'll be fine because I'll let my work speak for itself," Wallace added. "As long as everybody knows I'm a guy who's coming to work, I'm a guy who's going to be one of the last off the field every single day. I want them to know I'm a hard worker. I feel like sometimes people underestimate what I do and how much work and time and passion that I have for this game and how much time I put into it.

"A lot of people just see me catching deep touchdowns and think, 'That's easy. Anybody can run fast and score a touchdown," Wallace continued. "In six years, I've scored almost 50 touchdowns. You don't do that just by running fast. You've got to have skills and put in a lot of hard work goes into getting to that level. As long as they remember I'm a hard worker, I'm fine."

Minnesota traded with Miami to acquire Wallace on Friday, setting up the first in-person meeting Saturday with Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer. It was followed by a visit to the Xfinity Studios for an interview with Vikings.com's Mike Wobschall and a conference call with reporters. Wallace's schedule for the evening included a visit to the New Stadium Preview Center.

Wallace opened his conference call by thanking Zimmer, General Manager Rick Spielman and Vikings Owners Zygi and Mark Wilf for the opportunity.

"It's a great city, from what I've heard, a great young quarterback with a lot of good players on the team, a young team," Wallace said. "I'm looking forward to being an asset to the team. I want to help out and do the best I can."

The Vikings, who announced the release of Greg Jennings (127 catches, 1,546 yards and 10 touchdowns in two seasons with Minnesota) on Saturday, courted Wallace two years ago when he was hitting the free agency market after four seasons in Pittsburgh.

Back then, Wallace opted for the palm-lined beaches and steadily warm climate of Miami instead of the lakes that freeze over during Minnesota winters. He joked with reporters that Saturday's high of 61 felt like a "trick" because it was warmer than he was expecting.

Wallace said former Vikings safety Jamarca Sanford, a teammate of his at Ole Miss and one of my "good friends," told him "the weather is not the best, but the people are great."

Selected by the Steelers in the third-round of the 2009 NFL Draft, Wallace led the NFL with a per-catch average of 19.4 yards as a rookie and accounted for 14 pass plays of 20 or more yards and six catches of 40 or more yards. He grew even more with Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger the following season, hauling in 60 catches for 1,257 yards (21.0 per catch) and 10 touchdowns, helping the Steelers appear in Super Bowl XLV.

Zimmer, hired in Minnesota in 2014, prepped for two contests against Wallace each season from 2009-12 as Cincinnati's defensive coordinator and one encounter in each of the past two seasons after Wallace joined the Dolphins. Wallace had five catches for 58 yards and two touchdowns against Minnesota last December to spoil the return of Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and cornerback Xavier Rhodes to their hometown.

"I've played against Coach Zimmer's defenses when I was in Pittsburgh and he was in Cincinnati, so I know his defenses pretty well, and I'm hoping to torch them a little bit at practice," Wallace told Wobschall. "But I knew they have Teddy, a guy who is going up in the right direction in football. I'm excited to play with him."

Wallace said he has paid attention to Bridgewater, the 2014 Pepsi Rookie of the Year, since his days at Louisville and wants to see that "he's running the show" from a quarterback.

"I want to know that it's the guy in the fourth quarter, when we look in his eyes, that he's about to lead us to victory, a guy who is going to take us the distance," Wallace said. "I want to look in his eyes and know we have confidence in each other and we know we're going to do it."

Wallace's per-catch average decreased during his time with the Dolphins, but he had 140 catches for 1,792 yards and 15 touchdowns. Nine of his 10 scoring catches occurred inside the red zone last season.

"Last year, I was targeted a lot in the red zone and actually had a lot of plays designed for me in the red zone," Wallace said. "It's just a matter of opportunity. Last year I got it, and I kind of seized the opportunity."

Zimmer has praised Wallace's speed and quickness at the start of a play, and Vikings Offensive Coordinator said Wallace is effective in separating from defenders with his ability to "snap off routes" and stop "quicker than most guys."

Whether it's connecting on the deep pass or capitalizing in the red zone, Wallace said establishing confidence in one another will be critical for him and Bridgewater, who received praise last season from coaches for his ability to throw the ball with anticipation.

"I think the biggest thing is Teddy knowing he can throw it and me knowing I can go get it and catch it, working collectively together," Wallace said. "That's big. I can't throw the ball myself, and he can't catch it himself, so it's going to be together. I think having confidence in each other and working together, that's going to speed up the process. I know I can catch the deep ball, and I know he can throw it, so I think it's just getting together, and I'll catch up with him in Miami. It will look like we've played together before by the time we get here."

The Vikings are scheduled to begin their offseason workout program April 20, followed by organized team activity practices in May and June before training camp convenes in Mankato in July.

In addition to Wallace, other receivers on Minnesota's roster are Cordarrelle Patterson, Jarius Wright, Charles Johnson, Adam Thielen, Kain Colter and Donte Foster.

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