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Timeout with Zach Line


In the thick of his fourth NFL season and second as the Vikings starting fullback, Zach Line said he continues to appreciate every experience and opportunity that comes his way.

Sunday's matchup against the Lions marks Line's 28th game in purple and gold and his fourth against Detroit. The Michigan native scored his first career touchdown (1-yard run) against the Lions at home and turned a short pass into a 49-yard reception at Detroit last season. Even with that many games under his belt, Line feels the tingling excitement of nerves before every kickoff.

"If you don't get butterflies before a game, I think you need to get out of the game," Line said. "This is the NFL; this is the highest level, and everyone's coming after you. Obviously I'm confident in my abilities, but I always wait for that first hit to get my engine going a little bit more."

We caught up with Line for a recent Timeout.

Q: You joined the Vikings as an undrafted free agent and are now the team's full-time fullback. What has that journey been like?

A:I guess it's the underdog story, but that's OK. It's the NFL; it doesn't come easy. That's why it's so few and far in between, guys that play at this level. They preach that to you in high school, but I never believed that, the stats. It's all about what you want to do, and I wanted to play. I wanted to contribute and not cost this team, so I've been working hard every day, and that carries over to game day.

Q: You've earned a reputation for having great work ethic. Where does that blue-collar mentality come from?

A:My parents were really good at making you earn everything you got. We were well taken care of, but as far as if you wanted something, you had to do chores, or you had to start your own little lawn-mowing business, which I did. Then I had a really blue-collar football coach, a lot like [Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer]. I don't think we took the pads off until the day after the game. We wore them Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and then played the game on Friday in pads. It's just something that's been ingrained in me from a young age.

*Q: As someone who scored 3 touchdowns on only 12 touches last season, what's it like to get into the end zone as a fullback? *

A:You know, you take it for granted because it's in the playbook, and you think this is kind of how things go. But then you play behind guys like Jerome Felton, [whose only touchdown in his first eight seasons was a fumble recovery]. You can't take those for granted. Those are precious moments, and it helps your team out a lot. When you get your number called, you have to make something happen and trust the guys in front of you to do their job.

Q: After playing both offense and defense in high school, how did you end up solidified as an offensive player?

A:Linebacker was always my spot – I loved the defensive side of the ball. Ball hunting was fun for me. But the first day of spring ball, I was running out of the tunnel with SMU, and Coach [June] Jones grabbed me. He saw that I had running back tape, and he asked me if I wanted to play running back. I just wanted to see the field any way possible as a freshman, so I said, 'Sure.' I didn't really think it was going to last – I thought I'd just be helping out over there and then get back to linebacker. I even had people tell me, 'If you want to get to the NFL, you need to go back to linebacker,' [but] their stories changed by year two. I just kind of embrace change, embrace every situation that I'm in. That's kind of what I've done up until this point, and I don't plan on changing that.

Q: Which NFL players did you watch and admire growing up?

A:I didn't really watch the NFL, honestly. I watched the NHL. On the Red Wings, the "Grind Line" is what they called it. You had Darren McCarty, Kris Draper, and guys like that out there who were just grinders. They were hard workers, blue-collar, didn't ask for praise, and by not doing that, their teammates spoke about them highly. Steve Yzerman was one of those guys – I have his jersey. I kind of caught on to what makes you a good player, a good leader.

Q: What's the best advice you've ever been given?

A:'Great players never take a play off.' That was just something my high school coach always told me. He told me that one time when I was really tired, playing both sides of the ball. I was running back to the sideline for another play call, because I was playing quarterback that game, and he just mentioned that really quick, and I snapped into another gear. That kind of just stuck with me – I think it was the moment and the situation that he said it that kind of ingrained that in my mind.

Q: After welcoming your daughter, Blake, in 2015 and with another daughter on the way, what's your favorite part about being a dad?

A:If you're mentally stressed here – this is the most fun game in the world, a team game, but you get stressed – it's just one of those things where you can go home and no matter what, it just clears your mind and puts a smile on your face. My wife, McKenzie, does a good job of sending me pictures and stuff when we're traveling, and it kind of just makes everything better. My daughter is definitely the highlight of my day.

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