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Checking in with Hercules Mata’afa’s quest to make the Vikings

Hercules Mata’afa was set to make his impact on the NFL last season... Now he’s set to do it again this year.

NCAA Football: Stanford at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Things went bad in a hurry for former WSU defensive lineman Hercules Mata’afa. The undrafted free agent had a chance of making the roster for the Vikings last season, until he tore his ACL during OTAs.

After a year of rehab and recovery, Mata’afa is back and, seemingly, better than ever. Dan Thompson caught up with the former Pac-12 defensive player of the year for a piece in the Spokesman Review. Mata’afa was devastated after the knee injury forced the team to make a move, but quickly realized what that move meant. The team moved Hercules to the Injured Reserve, a move that meant the team wanted to keep him around and that gave him motivation to work even harder.

“About two or three weeks after surgery, I was able to bend my knee fully, so it’s kind of crazy the way it healed up pretty fast,” he told Thompson. “I was able to do things much faster than you’re usually able to do, and these guys out here, the training staff, really got me right.”

But the knee wasn’t the only thing Mata’afa worked on. He entered training camp this season at 275 pounds, at least 20 pounds heavier than last season. Thanks in part to that hard work, Mata’afa is in position to make the team The Vikings currently have just two defensive tackles with any NFL starting depth — Linval Joseph and Shamar Stephen. The other spots seem to be wide open.

“I haven’t made the 53-man roster yet and I haven’t contributed to this team yet,” he told Thompson. “I’ll just keep going out there, doing my job the best I can and hopefully I’ll be able to live up to those high comments. But the time hasn’t come yet.”

Beefed up and healthy, former WSU Cougar Hercules Mata’afa vies for Vikings’ spot | The Spokesman-Review
Mata’afa had quite a spring for the Minnesota Vikings. Now up to 275 pounds – 20 to 25 pounds heavier than he was a year ago when he tore his ACL during OTAs – the 2017 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year is back at defensive tackle, the position he excelled at while with the Cougars.


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