It's the recent history of success for Minnesota born wide receivers that has Vikings fans on high alert every time someone like Adam Thielen gets an opportunity with the team.
A native born Minnesotan, overlooked heading into college latches on locally and turns some heads. Not yet ready to give up on football he gets an opportunity to showcase his talents for the local team and makes the most of it.
That's what everyone was hoping for when the Vikings invited South Dakota State wide receiver Jake Wieneke to Rookie Mini Camp and extended him an offer to stick it out with the team through the remainder of offseason programming.
Early reports on Wieneke are far from damning but buried down on the third string right now he hasn't flashed on the days that the media have been allowed to look on.
However, there was another upstart Minnesota receiver that has flown relatively low on the radar to date that did the impressing at the team's final OTA period Tuesday morning.
Brandon Zylstra didn't get any Division-I offers coming out of high school in the New London Spicer area so he landed at Division-II Augustana in Sioux Falls, SD. The fit wasn't great with the Augustana Vikings so he transferred to a D-III option Concordia-Moorehead where he was able to develop into a better all around wide receiver.
Coming from the D-III leve, Zylstra went undrafted but signed on with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League where he blew up in 2017. As the team's feature wideout, Zylstra led the league in receiving with 1,687 receiving yards on 100 catches with five touchdowns. It was the 7th best receiving season in the history of the league. That season was a contender for the Most Outstanding Player in the CFL, was named a sure fire CFL All-Star numbers and helped lead his team to the playoffs where in their only game he would catch 12 passes for 221 yards and a TD.
After the season ended last year the Vikings signed Zylstra to a futures/reserve contract and that brings us up to speed again at present day.
Brandon is presently slotted in with the second team offense so he's primarily catching passes from Trevor Siemian and he's doing so on a regular basis. Standing 6'2" tall and weighing in at 215lbs, Zylstra is by no means a small wideout, but it was the strength that he showcased on this particular day that really stood out to the crowd on hand.
During the red zone session it came on a fade to the corner of the endzone. Contested, Zylstra went up over the defensive back to fight for the catch, a touchdown pass from Siemian, then he took the hard landing and held on to the football completing the process.
Next up, it was a post route during team drills in which #15 had the cornerback draped all over his backside. Holding off the immediate pressure, Zylstra held out his long arms snatched the pass that was thrown behind him out of the air and corralled it in to complete another impressive pass.
He's catching everything thrown his way and doing so in such a determined way that it makes you wish that you'd see that sort of approach from a few select others.
The Vikings have one of the best receiver tandems at the top of their depth chart with Diggs & Thielen but behind them it's thought that there are opportunities to be had. In fact, after Thielen & Diggs, the only wide receiver on roster this year who caught a pass last year was Laquon Treadwell.
We all know the sort of turmoil surrounding Treadwell and his NFL career.
Earlier this spring, the Chris Tomasson from the Pioneer Press caught up with Zylstra and his words echoed the performance we've seen on the field as well.
“Coming in, my goals are going to be to not be on the practice squad,” Zylstra said. ‘I feel like I can come in and just compete for a starting spot. … Why not? I’m not going to be coming in and just expecting to be a backup. If I end up in a backup role, that’s cool. But I’m just going to keep working until I get that starting spot.”
If you're looking for a new up and comer to root for this Training Camp and into the NFL Preseason, I think we've found him.
Check out this cool feature the Eskimos did on Brandon heading into the end of their season in 2017...