Anthony Herrera has already proven many critics wrong in his NFL career. He’d like to continue defying the doubters.
Undrafted in 2004, the offensive lineman from Barron Collier and the University of Tennessee signed a free-agent deal with the Minnesota Vikings. He spent that season splitting time on the practice squad and active roster before making the roster for good last year. He started seven games at left guard as the Vikings made a late-season run which nearly resulted in a playoff berth.
Herrera, who attended the Boca Ciega-Lely spring football game Friday, wants to lock up a permanent starting job this season. He heads into his third professional season in a battle with former Eagle Artis Hicks for the right guard spot.
“The coaches are telling me it’s 50-50 at this point and that’s all you can ask for,” Herrera said. “They’re not going to play favorites and I just have to go out and show them I deserve the job.”
Herrera will be playing for a new coach this season, as former Eagle offensive coordinator Brad Childress took over for Mike Tice earlier this year. The Vikings were in the news for all the wrong reasons last season, and Herrera knows that won’t be the case this year.
“Brad, he’s a real no-nonsense kind of coach,” Herrera said. “He’s a class act and I doubt we’ll have any of the problems we’ve had in the past.”
Herrera has made a steady progression in his first two pro seasons. He has high expectations this year.
“I want that starting spot but I’m not content to be a starter,” Herrera said. “I want to make the Pro Bowl. When my career is over, I’d like to be known as the best guard of my era.”
While some might scoff at such lofty goals, that’s fine with Herrera.
“I’ve always had to prove people wrong,” he said. “I think about where I’ve come from all the time and I use it to motivate me. When I think of all the teams that passed on me in the draft, I use that on the field. When I go out and dominate an opposing defender, it’s very satisfying.”
The Vikings made several offseason moves, the most notable being the trade of starting quarterback Daunte Culpepper to the Dolphins. Veteran Brad Johnson, who filled in for an injured Culpepper during Minnesota’s late-season run, will remain the starter.
“I love Brad, he’s a great guy,” Herrera said. “He’s a lot like Daunte as far as leadership goes, but he’s a more polished version of Daunte.”
Herrera, fresh off mini-camp, is enjoying some time off with his family in Naples. He was excited to see some spring football.
“It’s that time of year, so it’s nice to see some high school football again,” he said.