Photo - Streeter Lecka (Getty Images)
By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
Eden Prairie, MN - The Vikings made another splash Thursday night with the team's signing of free-agent cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.
Munnerlyn has spent the last five years playing for the Carolina Panthers serving mainly as the team's nickel cornerback. In those five years, Munnerlyn intercepted 7 passes (returning his last 4 for TDs), defending 39 passes and racking up 213 tackles as a part-time player for the Panthers.
While he certainly developed quite a bit during those five years in the NFL, it was what came before the Panthers, even before his time at South Carolina that truly shaped Munnerlyn into the man and player that he is today.
Growing up, most of us work our way through missing the bus, handling bullies and being dumped by our girlfriends. For Munnerlyn, that list looked more like drugs, murder and prison.
When Captain was 6 years old, his father was murdered. A few years later, his older brothers got caught up in drug sales in and around Mobile, AL. As Munnerlyn entered the second grade, his oldest brother Timothy was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. With his world already falling apart around him at an early age, Munnerlyn seemed destined to have followed the same path as the male role models in his life. But then God stepped in, quite literally.
After her eldest son was convicted of shooting a man dead, Munnerlyn's mother turned to faith to lift her spirits and converted to Christianity.
"If the head of the household can change her life, it can change everyone's life," Munnerlyn told the Boys and Girls Club of South Alabama last year. And that's exactly what happened in Captain's life.
Led by the matriarch of the family, Captain began attending Sunday School classes and Wednesday night Bible school before deciding to accept Christ as his own personal savior in the sixth grade. Captain prayed with his mother "and something changed. When I fully gave my life to Christ, I saw a difference immediately."
Continuing his involvement with the church, Munnerlyn became more heavily involved in organized sports and saw his life making a turn for the better. This new trajectory led him to stand out in sports at Murphy High School, pushed him to the first team All-SEC in 2007 with South Carolina, advanced him into the NFL with the Carolina Panthers and ultimately to the Minnesota Vikings for his sixth NFL season.
"[Remembering my past] helps me out a lot," Munnerlyn told me Thursday night. "I think I play with that chip still on my shoulder and what my family's been through and the stuff we overcame, it's just helped me out a lot. I think that's why I play with so much passion and so much aggression and it helps me out a whole lot."
At 5'9" tall, Munnerlyn's off-the-field life was not the only thing he had to overcome to make it into the NFL. Being told he was too small became a main-stay throughout the recurring try-out processes he was faced with.
"I'm just going out there to prove people that I can play and that I'm every an down corner," Captain said Thursday evening. "Everybody looks at my size and says, 'Oh man, he can't play,' 'He's too short to play outside corner,' or 'He's too short to do this.' That's the biggest key with me. I was just trying to go out there and prove that I'm an every down corner, that I can make plays and bring toughness to a team."
His life experiences and the recurring doubt he encountered has undoubtedly shaped Munnerlyn into the player that he is today.
"I'm tough and I'm feisty," Munnerlyn explained. "I love getting after people and that's what I do. I get after people and I don't shy down from nobody. I don't care if you're a 6-7, 6-8 lineman, I'm not shying down from you. I'm going to go in and try and make plays and I'm going to hit you. That's why I think he called me a pit bull because he knows I don't back down from anybody."
"If you will just trust and believe in yourself and believe in God, you can do it," Munnerlyn told those kids in 2013. "I'm a living witness to that."
Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn will join Paul Allen on KFAN 100.3 FM Friday morning at 10:20am.
Aj Mansour covers Minnesota Sports for KFAN.com. Feel free to leave comments and questions regarding this post in the space provided below. For Vikings updates and breaking Vikings news, follow Aj on Twitter. @AjKFAN