EAGAN, Minn. – The Vikings are bringing a familiar face back to their defensive line, the team announced Wednesday.
Defensive tackle Shamar Stephen agreed to terms with the Vikings upon the start of free agency and will return to Minnesota, where he started his career as a seventh-round draft pick (220th overall) in 2014.
Stephen spent his first four NFL seasons with the Vikings before signing with the Seahawks in 2018. He started 14 of 15 games played in Seattle, finishing the year with 25 tackles (11 solo), 2.0 sacks and two tackles for loss.
Here are five things to remember about Stephen after a year away:
1. Two-sport high school standout
A New York native, Stephen attended Long Island Lutheran Middle and High School and was a two-sport standout in football and basketball. On the gridiron, he played both offense and defense before transitioning to a full-time defensive tackle as a junior. Stephen was named the team captain as a senior. On the hardwood, Stephen teamed with current 76er Tobias Harris for one season.
2. College star at Connecticut
Stephen attended the University of Connecticut, where he started all 12 games at defensive tackle as a senior in 2013. That season, he totaled a career-high 60 tackles (21 solo), 3.0 sacks and 10 tackles for loss.
Following the campaign, Stephen earned Huskies MVP honors and was named to the All-ACC Second Team.
View photos of Vikings DT Shamar Stephen. He enters his sixth NFL season in 2019 and rejoins the Vikings after spending the 2018 season with the Seattle Seahawks.
3. Second stint in the Twin Cities
Stephen is returning to the Vikings after spending his first four pro seasons in Purple. As a rookie in 2014, he made his first career start when he stepped in for 3-technique Sharrif Floyd against the Packers in Week 12.
Stephen recovered his first career fumble in 2015 when he fell on a Theo Riddick drop against the Lions in Week 2. He suffered a season-ending toe injury in Week 6, however, and spent the rest of the season on Injured Reserve.
The 2016 campaign marked Stephen’s first as a full-time starter, and he totaled a career-high 57 tackles (team stats). Although he started just one game in 2017, he was part of a regular defensive line rotation that earned respect across the league.
From 2014-17, Stephen recorded 142 tackles (team stats), 1.0 sack, two tackles for loss, 30 quarterback hurries (team stats) and two fumble recoveries for Minnesota.
4. Reputation in the run game
Stephen has garnered a reputation for his ability to stop the run, an attribute that was often praised by Vikings coaches during his first four seasons in Minnesota. In 2017, he helped the Vikings rank No. 2 overall in run defense, allowing opponents an average of 83.6 yards per game.
The Seahawks ranked 19th in run defense in 2017. After adding Stephen to the line in free agency, they improved to 13th overall in 2018.
5. A familiar face
While Stephen, 28, spent the 2018 season with another team, he’s returning to a defensive system – and teammates – he knows well.
Stephen started his NFL career during Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer’s first season at the helm in Minnesota, and he also is quite familiar with Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards, defensive line coach Andre Patterson, assistant defensive line coach Rob Rodriguez and teammates.