EAGAN, Minn. – Isaiah Wharton willingly made the switch to safety when asked.
Wharton participated in the Vikings rookie minicamp in May on a tryout basis; after the three-day camp, he was signed to Minnesota’s 90-man roster. Now he’s looking to make an impact any way he can, and he’s happy to do that from the safety position.
“I’m embracing it; I’m having fun doing it,” said Wharton, who started at cornerback for Rutgers. “I actually like it a lot more – you’re able to make a lot more plays, you’re around the ball more, you’re blitzing. I like the position a lot.”
Wharton totaled 205 tackles (134 solo), 14.5 tackles for loss, 32 passes broken up and four interceptions for the Scarlet Knights.
He never missed a game, making 48 consecutive starts. Wharton called his health a blessing but also credited attention to detail for his durability.
“In college, we had a nutritionist, we had a strength staff, we had great trainers, and one thing I always prided myself on was doing the little things right,” he said. “Those people get paid to help me, so I utilized them.”
Wharton didn’t take any resources for granted in college; now that he’s being given a shot in the NFL, he maintains the same mindset.
The 23-year-old welcomes opportunities to learn from older teammates. He’s grateful to share a position room with All-Pro safety and “selfless player” Harrison Smith and also has spent time talking with receiver Adam Thielen, who got his start as a tryout player for the Vikings in 2013.
“I was picking his brain a little bit, asking him some of the things that he did to make the team and become a key player,” Wharton said. “I’ve learned a lot from them both.”
In addition to working under defensive backs coach Jerry Gray, Wharton is also contributing on special teams.
“The way I look at special teams, it’s just another chance to make a team. I’m going to utilize every play that I have to showcase myself. I love special teams,” Wharton said.
Asked if he’s familiar with Marcus Sherels, the special teams standout who last wore Wharton’s jersey number, he assured that Minnesotans have let him know the responsibility of wearing No. 35.
“A few fans have actually hit me up on Instagram and told me, ‘Take care of the number,’ ” Wharton said with a smile. “And I told them that the number’s in good hands.”
Here are three other topics Wharton covered with Vikings.com:
1. You tweet a lot about the NBA; who is your favorite team/player?
“My family’s from Ohio, so I’m a Cavs fan. Right now, wherever LeBron [James] goes, I’m sort of following that. My mom’s from Ohio, he’s an Akron kid, so I want him to be the G.O.A.T. and win as many ring as possible. I’m a Cavs fan, though.”
2. Did you play any sports other than football?
“I played basketball, I ran track. I stopped playing basketball going into my junior year of high school because down in Florida, football’s so competitive that you kind of have to play it year-round or you’ll miss a step, so I decided to focus on football.”
3. What NFL player(s) did you keep your eye on growing up?
“I had a few. I watched Deion Sanders a lot; I played corner my whole life, and he was one of my favorite players. Also Peter Warrick, my uncle. He played for Florida State and [played five seasons] with the Bengals [and one with the Seahawks]. I played offense growing up, as well, and he was someone who I got a lot of my footwork, a lot of my moves from. So, Peter Warrick and Deion Sanders, those were two of my favorite players growing up.”