Vikings rookie kicker honored to follow Longwell

Published 8:26 am Wednesday, May 30, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS — Blair Walsh never had the chance to compete against Ryan Longwell to be Minnesota’s kicker this season.

He didn’t even get to meet him.

Yes, the job is already Walsh’s, barring training camp trouble or the sudden availability of a too-good-to-pass-up alternative. The significance of this important, coveted position has not been lost on the rookie drafted by the Vikings in the sixth round out of Georgia.

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“There are 32 of these jobs. To have one of them right now is exciting and humbling,” Walsh said in a phone interview Tuesday after the Vikings held their first spring practice, known around the league as organized team activities.

Walsh said he didn’t step onto the field with any different feelings about being on top of the depth chart, which until earlier this month still listed Longwell’s prominent name first. The 16-year veteran was let go earlier this month in a cost-cutting move. Despite a down 2011 season during which he made 22 of 28 field-goal attempts, Longwell recorded 633 points in six years with the Vikings. That’s third in franchise history behind Fred Cox and wide receiver Cris Carter, and Cox was with the team for 15 seasons.

“To come in behind him and be able to play after him is a big honor. He has big shoes to fill, that’s for sure,” Walsh said. “I would like to have met him and learned from him, but it is what it is.”

Walsh is a former soccer prodigy who once was part of the U.S. Olympic development program but became burnt out on that sport and switched to football as a sophomore in high school.