The phrase 'The more you know' can apply to a type of existentialism in the NFL where breadth of knowledge and versatility in accomplishing tasks can help a player set himself apart.
But for Stephen Weatherly, it was a way of life off the field before becoming central to his on-the-field approach.
Weatherly has learned to play nine musical instruments, enjoys finding rapid solutions for a jumbled Rubik's Cube and has even teamed with friends to set a record for quickest defeat of a Twin Cities escape room. He went to another one just this past Monday after wrapping up his day with the Vikings.
Weatherly's ability to exercise multiple types of intelligences dates back to his time when he was growing up in the Atlanta suburbs.
As his football talents emerged and led to an offer to attend Vanderbilt, he didn't stop exploring new non-football avenues. A commitment to trying to master them had a helpful impact on the gridiron, and Weatherly was drafted by Minnesota in the seventh round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Here, under Head Coach Mike Zimmer, Defensive Coordinator George Edwards, defensive line coach Andre Patterson and assistant defensive line coach Rob Rodriguez, Weatherly has continuously been tasked with more each season.
Each new thing he's proven capable of handling has led to the coaches entrusting another task, which will make Weatherly an interesting player to watch throughout the season.
"It's all about executing and consistency over time," Weatherly said. "You can do something right once, but that doesn't get you the respect that Zim' needs in order to give you more plays and more packages and more stuff and more playing time.
"Ever since I got here, it was all about me showing I can do my job when asked to do my job, and not just once but consistently over time," he continued. "Since I've been here, I've been able to show I can handle more and more within the scheme of the defense, so that next step is taking everything that they've given me so far and being able to execute it."
For Weatherly, it will be a case of "the more, the merrier."
The 25-year-old's offseason included becoming the first participant in the Vikings Executive Leadership Program, an internship pilot program with some of the Vikings partners. He said he hopes the program develops into something that helps players transition after their playing careers wrap up.
"You don't want to see guys in position where they run out of the money that they were fortunate enough to earn in their short time in the league or worse," Weatherly said. "So just to help guys and give them options so they feel like their lives aren't over once they get released, or because of injury or whatever reason, they're not able to continue their football career. … Just help guys on their next journey. I hope it gets started in this upcoming offseason, gains traction and snowballs in the right direction."
We caught up with Weatherly recently for a Timeout:
Q: You are working from a two-point stance and a three-point stance this offseason; do you have a preference?
A: "Each one is good for different things. Two-point, standing up, outside linebacker-type, you're able to see more, you're able to read more, and that's good and bad because if you're looking at everything, you'll see nothing, but if you're looking at your keys, at the appropriate keys for your particular play, you can see a lot. You can also see motions coming in and out, formational tendencies, so on and so forth, but for just pure get-off, there's a reason why the 100-meter dash is run out of four-point stances. That's your most explosive. Each one has its pros and cons, so if you want to get your hand down in the ground, play your one man and react and explode off the ball, then three-point is the way to go. But when you're asked to see more and make changes and make more calls, then standing up is definitely more advantageous."
Q: How does your experience as a defensive end in a 4-3 and linebacker in a 3-4 help you alternate now?
A: "Coming in, we were a 4-3, so I played defensive end my first year, and then a whole new coaching staff, I went to outside linebacker, so coming here, I was able to lean on both. When I first got here, it was all defensive end stuff, hand in the ground, no matter what, and then this past year, I was able to stand up a little more. This year, I'm going to be standing up just a little bit more but also have my hand down a lot."
What were your favorite and least-favorite classes at Vanderbilt?
A: "There were so many [favorites]. Piano was definitely a class I looked forward to, along with most sociology classes and Creating Funding for Nonprofits in the 21st Century. My worst classes were General Chemistry and any writing class. I wasn't a big fan of writing. I don't like writing for no reason. I like writing for a purpose. I was never good at paper assignments, 'must be 12 pages.' If I can articulate my position in six pages effectively, why string it out? We both know what I'm talking about."
Q: It's been a while, but do you remember anything from 2007 when Zimmer was with the Falcons?
A: "No, I was huge into Animal Planet growing up. Animal Planet and Discovery Channel."
Which brings me to my next question, where does your inquisitive mind come from?
A: "Just my mom. I was raised by my mom. She always had me in whatever sparked my interest to truly understand if you liked something or not. It was all about getting in it, being surrounded by it and immersed in it. I'm always down to try new things, see what I like. You never know if you like something unless you try it, so that's pretty much where that came from. She was always, 'Just do more. Be more. You're more than just an athlete, you're more than just a scholar. You want to be well-traveled, you want to be well-versed,' so she was just pushing me to try new things and not just try them once I decided I liked them to then be good at them, to not just try it and then ditch it, to actively work at it. If you have a real passion and interest, do it and be good at it. Don't just do it to kill time. So, all of those factors together have led to the man I am now."
Q: That ranges from the different musical instruments you play to solving problems to escape rooms? Do you keep stats on how many you escape rooms you beat?
A: "Absolutely. There's no point in doing anything unless you're keeping tabs on how well you're doing. I've only not gotten out of two rooms ever. One was in college, one was since I've been here. The second time, they did not reload the room [correctly] and left out a crucial clue, so that stopped us from getting out, so that doesn't really count. We (Weatherly and friends) hold the record for one room in Minnesota."
Q: You also made your way to the Minnesota State Fair and got the inside scoop on Sweet Martha's Cookies.
A: "I had the fortune to meet Martha from Sweet Martha's, and that was unbelievable. The whole setup, the whole shop, the way it works, it's a well-oiled machine."
Q: What is your go-to fair food?
A: "None of it. I have not eaten any fair food since going. I've had the cookies, of course, because I was there, but I don't really eat fair food."
Q: Then how was the people watching? What was the most interesting thing you saw?
A: "There were some interesting characters that show up at the Great Minnesota Get-Together. There were some people dressed in tutus, a whole pack of people, so I knew they were in a group. I also saw someone that looked like they had every piece of food – the giant bacon, the giant corn, some Sweet Martha's cookies, the giant lemonades. They had everything and a giant carrying apparatus to hold everything."