Photo - Hannah Foslien (Getty Images)

By: Aj Mansour |

Mankato, MN - To say that Jamarca Sanford's road to the NFL has been a roller coaster might be a bit of an understatement.

In college, Sanford earned time by filling in at linebacker at Ole Miss adopting the mindset that any way he could get on the field was the best way to showcase his talents. An undersized safety when he entered the NFL Draft in 2009, Sanford was selected with the 231st overall pick in the seventh round by the Minnesota Vikings.

Spending the majority of his time on the sidelines during his first few years, Sanford developed into a special teams standout and by the time 2011 rolled around safety position opened up and Jamarca was ready to step up.

For the majority of the next three seasons, Sanford started at strong safety for the Vikings until the 2013 season saw Jamarca miss three games with various hamstring and groin injuries. Opening the door for those behind him, Jamarca once again found himself fighting for a starting position with a new coaching staff.

"That's life you know," Jamarca said Tuesday afternoon. "Things don't always go your way but that don't mean you give up. You've got to keep pushing and working. It's nothing new."

Normally one of the vocal leaders on the defensive side, the new coaching staff and new defensive scheme has sort of silenced one of Jamarca's greatest attributes, his vocal leadership.

"I haven't been as vocal as I've been in the past because I'm trying to learn the defense and I want to have myself right before get to speaking out and talking," Jamarca said. "The defense is slowing down to me, I'm getting the hang of it and finally getting comfortable with the defense now."

With the comfort level rising, Sanford can once again rest on what has helped him stand out to the two prior coaching staffs in Minnesota.

No stranger to the competition, the combination of an injury to Robert Blanton and hard work on and off the field has propelled Jamarca back atop the depth chart for now. It's that same mindset that he hopes will help him showcase his talents Friday night against Oakland and further solidify his role on this team.

"I always have been the underdog," Sanford explained. "I've always had to outwork my next opponent. I'm not the tallest [guy] or the prototype safety you know. I'll always have that against me. Three-three (33) is going to shine somewhere on this team whether it's defense or special teams it doesn't matter."

As it stands now, Sanford is in line to make the start for preseason game number one. As he says it, "preseason is when jobs are won," and he's hoping that Friday night can serve as the opportunity he feels was taken away from him when injured last season.