Former Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Hercules Mata'afa is impressing head coach Mike Zimmer during Vikings organized team activities.
Apparently so much so that Zimmer the undrafted defensive lineman to Bengals seven-time Pro Bowler Geno Atkins.
"He's kind of been the surprise of camp to be honest with you, players are talking about him. "He can get out fo the chutes without raising up at all. He's been very difficult to block," said Zimmer in an interview with KFAN's Paul Allen.
Then Zimmer compared Mata'afa to Atkins. Kind of.
"We had a kid, when I was in Cincinnati, named Geno Atkins. He came in there and we were in OTAs and one of the quarterbacks came up to me and said, "do you think he can do this in pads?' I said, 'I don't know we'll see.' And he did. I'm not saying he's Geno, but he's so active in these OTAs. The question is can he continue to do it when we get the pads on?"
There you have it. He likened what Mata'afa has done in a handful of OTA practices to what Atkins, a fourth-round pick in 2010, did as a rookie in OTAs. It remains to be seen if Mata'afa will become a force like Atkins has been since 2011.
Mata'afa missed the entire 2018 season season after tearing his ACL last summer, and he's rehabbed his way back to the point that Zimmer says he's up to 275 pounds, gaining 20 pounds of muscle since his college days when Pro Football Focus gave him a second-round draft grade.
As a sophomore at Washington State, Mata'afa racked up 13.5 tackles for loss and five sacks, and upped that production to 21.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks as a junior in 2017. Those numbers earned him a nod on the Associated Press All-America First Team.
He didn't get drafted in 2018, in part because of he was undersized, according to Pro Football Talk.
One way or another, Hercules Mata'afa is another name to get to know between now and training camp.