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Zach Line expects 'good crew' in Michigan crowd

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Zach Line recently fielded a request, but doesn't want to fulfill it.

The Michigan native had plunged into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown on his first career carry against Detroit in Week 2.

A friend of Line's, who was aware the fullback's first career catch occurred against the Lions in 2013, "basically said, 'If my stats are right, your only two stats are against Detroit. Can you pick on someone else?' "

Line followed with another forceful 1-yard TD against San Diego in Week 3. Line had one catch for a short gain and added a special teams tackle last week against Kansas City as the Vikings heavily incorporated sets with three wide receivers.

What does Line have in mind this week?

"Hopefully I can get a couple of blocks on touchdowns for Adrian [Peterson]," Line said.

The third-year pro didn't receive requests for tickets from family or friends but expects a "good crew" of familiar faces in the crowd.

"They're all going to get there early and tailgate," Line said. "Detroit always feels like a home game, which is fun. I can look up in the stands and see someone I know at any time, so that's kind of cool."

Line's path to the pros was recently chronicled in a segment on Vikings: Beyond the Gridiron. He grew up a hockey fan initially rooting for the Red Wings, but became involved in wrestling and football when his family, including two athletic brothers, moved to Oxford, Michigan.

"Football and wrestling were the two sports we played," Line said. "We had a really good high school coach, Bud Rowley, so he's definitely a big impact on our football careers and our mentalities toward the game. I think that's why we all kind of love the game of football."

Line thought he would stay nearby and attend Michigan State or Central Michigan, but late in the process a friend of the family sent a highlight tape to coach June Jones at Hawaii. Jones, however, was on his way back to the mainland at Southern Methodist, which made an offer to Line.

After a day as a linebacker, Line switched to running back for the Mustangs and began ponying up stats. He finished with 4,185 rushing yards, which is second in school history behind Eric Dickerson and tied the Hall of Famer with 47 touchdowns. He was joined on campus in his senior season by his younger brother Prescott.

"It was a pretty fun time. We had some good teams there," Line said. "I think I fit their scheme well as a running back and being able to move guys out with the spread and have more of a power runner than up the middle. It's always going to be fun to go back there because you always have that football community and culture that kind of know who you are and know your family."

Line, however, was undrafted and opted to sign with the Vikings. He backed up Pro Bowler Jerome Felton in his first two seasons, but is now the Vikings lone fullback and a contributor on special teams. As Line was preparing for the interview with Gridiron, Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer kidded Line about making sure to stress the importance of special teams.

In all seriousness though, Priefer has been pleased with the linebacker mentality that remains in Line's approach to teams.

"He can play on all four core phases," Priefer said earlier this season. "He can play a lot of roles because he's smart, he's tough and he can run."

Line said he's appreciative of those who helped him in high school, at college and now in the NFL.

"I was fortunate to have Jerome Felton the first two years, a Pro Bowl guy and a good guy to learn from," Line said. "It's been a fun journey and it's a good running back group to be around. I enjoy having Kirby [Wilson] as a running backs coach. He's been a big help in my transition from running back to fullback.

"You've got that trust from the coaches, now you've got to take advantage of those reps," Line said. "I think what you do during the week, your preparation takes care of itself so when you get to the game, you don't have to think. You play fast. I've always relied a lot on practice to make the game easier for me, and so far that's working out pretty good."

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