After spending his 2021 rookie season on the Vikings practice squad, Zach Davidson is taking steps forward in Minnesota's new offense.
Q: Where are you as a player compared to a year ago?
A: "I think a lot more settled into the professional lifestyle — being a professional tight end knowing the workload and how to take care of my body and knowing the depth of the offensive playbook and where I fit into it, just a lot better understanding this go round. I think last year I was just, somebody put it, I was swimming. I'm a little bit more under control where I'm at and able to really build on it day to day instead of just trying to swallow a lot that's being force-fed. … I think, as a team, being able to bounce off each other and being new to the scheme, being new to how we're going to run certain concepts and really basing everything off communication has helped.
Q: What's it like to have an offensive coordinator in Wes Phillips who previously coached NFL tight ends from 2013-21?
A: "It's nice. He pops in and out and kind of works hand in hand with Coach [Brian] Angelichio. He's just another great-minded guy that's been around the position and learned to use us and our skills. Coach Ang', working alongside him, he's another one of the best tight ends coaches in the league, based on fundamentals and is the same guy every day."
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Jan. 14, 2023.
Q: What was growing up in Webb City, Missouri, like?
A: "It was a great area, close to the Ozarks — a lot to do outdoors. Growing up in Webb City, specifically with a rich football culture and being a punter, my football experience was very limited. I think I punted a maximum of 25 times a season when I was in high school, so I focused more on basketball in high school, which kind of helped me grow into the tight end position. Webb City is a great area with great people. I was blessed to be in my situation."
Q: You were 12 when the massive tornado came through and destroyed so much of nearby Joplin?
A: "Yeah, I was actually at Freeman Hospital [for another reason] when it came through. Luckily, it provided safe cover, and I ended up passing out towels to people who were coming in for emergency help. I saw some injuries, some things I'll probably never forget, but being able to be there and be around the people I love and help out those around us when we could just meant a lot to us as a family and the community as well."
Q: What did you think of the community's full-throttle efforts to rebuild?
A: "It provided jobs to a lot of people and brought the community together. When you take a loss like that, it's hard to come back. Just seeing the complete demolition of part of the city was crazy, and it happened in a matter of an hour-and-a-half, two hours. Seeing the community come together like that, you know what it takes to rebuild everything that was torn down."
Q: There's not much of a way to transition from that regrowth, but when did you grow into your 6-foot-7 frame?
A: "I would say my junior year of college, my first year of starting at tight end. I was still pretty scrawny going into that season. I had gotten up to 235 the season before and then was able to break the 240 barrier. The year before, I got a couple of impact plays in the season and really allowed Coach [John] McMenamin, our OC, and [Jim] Svoboda to really involve me in the offense going into my junior year, but that helped me fill out. That was the year I finally felt comfortable in my body. I definitely needed more and need more now, but just noticing the tools I had and how they could help me grow into the tight end position came there."
Q: At 6-7, do you sometimes feel the world wasn't built for you? If you could modify one thing to make it feel like it fits you more, what would it be?
A: "That's an easily answered question. I told my fiancée [Juliet], 'When we build our first house, we'll have a stairstep for you to reach the countertops.' Being in the kitchen, doing dishes and stuff like that, the countertop has always been my nemesis because I'm always half-bent over. Being able to cook and help chop stuff up was always a pain, so I would easily say that and a couch that fits."
Q: The Mules legacy includes former 49ers tight end Delanie Walker. Have you gotten a chance to meet him?
A: "I've never met him. Heard great things about how hard he worked. It shows you that it's possible from our level and the resources we were given, so I'd say it's more of an example to know the tools are there at the Division-II level to push yourself and search how to build your routine around that to get you where you want to go."
Q: You went from punting to extending drives and keeping yourself from punting as much.
A: "It was nice, being a part of the offense we were on, but I remember running two or three streak routes, clear-out routes for a dagger and then having to come back after a long third down and calm myself and kick the ball down the field and try to get over a four-second hang time. Those are some of my most challenging times in college mentally and physically, also just learning how to use my body physically in the run game. I think that's still an uphill battle today."
Q: You've posted pics of fishing with Pat Jones II. How much do you like fishing and what do you like about it?
A: "I love fishing for the ease of mind, to get away from social media and all of that, even though I do post about it. It's a disconnect from everything. It's something that my fiancée and our new baby like to do. She likes to relax and hang out. I like trying to find fish and find out what baits, what tackle are working that day. Ultimately, the disconnect from day-to-day life and the relaxation and the thrill of hooking a fish."
Q: Congrats on the newborn. How has parenting been?
A: "It's been wonderful. A lot of new doors have been opened, a lot of new experiences and responsibilities, and I think that's going to continue as all parents have warned me. It's a never-ending learning experience, and she's really a blessing, just the beauty she's brought into my life and the humbling, grounding experience of becoming a parent and learning to be a different style of partner with my fiancée as well. It's built our relationship up, our trust in each other, and passing off responsibility made us a better team."
Q: Tell me a little bit about Archie, your dog breed.
A: "That's my homie. He's 4, so we got him in my sophomore year of college with Juliet. We had been talking about getting a dog. I don't even remember where she got him from but she said I'm going to go pick him up and sent me a picture. 'OK, see you when you get home.' He's been the first love of our lives together since then. He's a sweetheart, a lover, likes to get out. Doesn't like water all that much, but he loves to snuggle. He's definitely been there when we've needed him and vice versa. He's the homie for sure."
Q: Kirk Cousins mentioned you're close to cracking the 21-mph club and receiving a T-shirt from Director of Player Performance Josh Hingst.
A: "I think it's going to take one of those days where I get a seam route or a certain route where I can just let it unload. I think I got that last year during a screen where I was running off the safety. I think Kirk putting that out there is a challenge to me. He and Sean [Mannion] have been on me since they heard I got close. I always tell them it's going to happen naturally if it happens, so it's not something where I'm trying to break a high score, but I definitely look forward to reaching it."