Feisty Fusco in line to start for Vikings at guard

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, August 8, 2012

MANKATO — Some players taken in the late rounds of the NFL draft are available there because of off-the-field concerns. The extra baggage Brandon Fusco brought to the Minnesota Vikings was his alma mater.

Slippery Rock University is no slouch. The Rock, as the program is informally known, has annually been a top-tier team in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, with a handful of NCAA Division II playoff appearances on file. But that’s just it: Slippery Rock is Division II, where plenty of players with professional-caliber skills struggle to attract attention and get those precious opportunities to make an NFL team.

“I feel like I always have that chip on my shoulder,” Fusco said. “I always have to prove to these people that I can play.”

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Fusco then knocked over the small-school stereotype like he was firing out of his stance across the line to send a middle linebacker falling to the turf.

“It doesn’t matter where you come from,” said Fusco, who’s in line to be Minnesota’s starting right guard this season. “It’s just heart and determination.”

Slippery Rock players have reached the pros before, but Fusco last year was the first to be invited to the Senior Bowl and the Scouting Combine, both important skills showcases for NFL prospects. Fusco impressed the Vikings enough that they drafted him in the sixth round and kept him on their active roster all season.