Aussie David Yankey can still become a Viking

AMERICAN FOOTBALL: Australian-born offensive lineman David Yankey is still looking on the bright side of life after being cut from the Minnesota Vikings' 53-man squad.


That is because he hasn't been totally forgotten - the 145kg man mountain was recalled to the Vikings' practice squad soon after being cut.


This means - unlike former rugby league star Jarryd Hayne at San Francisco - his chances of playing this season are slim.


The 23-year-old also didn't suit up for a game in his rookie season at the Vikings last year, either.


But he will still get a chance to impress head coach Mike Zimmer on the training paddock, as the former Stanford University star - born in Sydney - clings on to his NFL dream.


Despite his incredible strength and bulk, Yankey was told he needed to get even stronger in the pre-season, and he's gone about doing that.


"One of the first things the coaches talked about was strengthening the lower body and core strength," he told APN.


"My main focus all off-season was adding more sets, more weights, more reps - all those things as much as possible in terms of really coming to work on those leg days, and getting out as much as possible.


"I think I've developed better physicality and better run-blocking throughout (training) camp."


Yankey did, however, admit sitting on the sidelines all of last year got a little frustrating.


"Yeah definitely. Playing all throughout college had become something very normal and something you expect," he said.


"To go to not playing at all - not even dressing on game day - was definitely a tough pill to swallow."


The Vikings have given Yankey - who moved to the US from Sydney when he was eight - no indication he could receive a call-up from the practice squad this season, if he shows improvement.


But he hasn't given up hope of blocking for star running back and 2012 MVP Adrian Peterson.


"You see him run around with his freakish athletic ability, you see his running-back vision and I'm just excited to watch him go play and hopefully get a chance to block for him too," Yankey said.


Yankey also spoke with genuine excitement about arguably the biggest story in Australian sport and the NFL's pre-season right now - former Eels star Hayne's fairy-tale rise to the 49ers' playing squad.


"I think it's awesome. His strong pre-season hasn't surprised me, especially as a guy who is a power returner on special teams," Yankey said.


"That's very natural - that's very rugby league-like for him, in terms of having the ball and making guys miss in open field.


"It's something I think a lot of the skills transfer really well (to American football), and I'm really happy to see that he's done so well.


"He has been pretty dominant and I'm excited to see what's in store for him at the Niners, and hopefully I'll see him on Monday night (Tuesday AEST) to kick the season off."


Hayne's San Francisco outfit will take on Yankey's Vikings at Levi's Stadium - home of the 49ers - at 12.20pm next Tuesday in Week One of the NFL season.


About 15 million Americans will tune into the traditional high-rating Monday Night Football telecast.


Interest in the game in the US and Australia will be even more massive than usual if 49ers coach Jim Tomsula opts to include overnight sensation Hayne in his match-day squad of 46, as a kick and punt returner.


Tomsula won't announce his team until 90 minutes before kick-off.


The Vikings are seen as a dark horse to make the Super Bowl, but few have predicted the 49ers to make the playoffs, after a below-par 2014 season, following a Super Bowl appearance in early 2013.
 


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