Alexander Mattison’s first three days in NFL practice uniform went smoothly last weekend at the Minnesota Vikings’ rookie minicamp. “I like a lot of things about him,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said of his third-round draft pick. “He catches the ball well. He’s physical. He’s got a long, strong lower body. Most of the time when he made contact (at Boise State) he was always falling forward.” Now that the organization is getting to know Mattison, there’s even more assurance that he has the inside track at winning the backup running back job behind Dalvin Cook. Mattison is not looking to be a one-man show. He appreciates the Vikings’ plan to use him the way they used Latavius Murray the past two seasons. “It definitely is a way to make sure that backs are staying healthy,” said Mattison. But he can be a workhorse if necessary.
Mattison is nothing if not confident. “I’m valuable in the pass game, both in pass protection and catching out of the backfield,” Mattison told reporters. “I just hope to get out there and prove that. We always said we were the legs of the team (with Boise State), so I just hope to be one of those (with the Vikings).” Mattison was asked by the Minnesota media what makes Boise State tick. “It’s not in the Blue, but it’s in the blood and sweat and tears that (we) put in the Blue,” Mattison said. “If you walk in there, you’ll see guys that just give it their all. It’s the culture, it’s contagious, and I think as long as that culture’s there, it’ll continue to grow.”
‘COULD AJAYI BE A FIT WITH THE VIKINGS?’
That was the headline on USA Today’s VikingsWire Tuesday, but it really was just clickbait. Especially for Boise State fans. Danny Heifetz, an NFL writer for The Ringer, sees unrestricted free agent Jay Ajayi as Minnesota-bound. Ajayi remains on the market. Would the Vikings want to crowd their running backs room by adding to Mattsion and Cook? Actually, no, according to VikingsWire. Kyle Radke writes that “this all seems unlikely considering the Vikings have just $1.4 million in cap space and still need to sign their first-round pick.” Ironically, it was against Minnesota last October that Ajayi’s season with Philadelphia ended due to a torn ACL. “Ajayi is only 25 years old somehow,” Radke quips. “It feels like he’s been around forever.”
VANDALS AND BENGALS REQUIRE REGULARITY
While Mountain West schools have to wait until at least February every year to see how the conference football schedule shakes out, the Big Sky has announced its future league slates all the way through the 2023 season. The Big Sky has 13 football-playing members, so with an eight-game conference schedule, each school skips four teams per year. Each institution has two “protected rivals,” and Idaho’s are Eastern Washington and Montana. The Vandals play Idaho State in four of the next five years, but they skip 2021. Because the Big Sky allows its teams to schedule fellow league members as non-conference foes, Idaho and ISU should fill a slot with each other in 2021, don’t you think? They should play every year.
THERE’S A REASON THE U.S. OPEN IS CALLED ‘OPEN’
It’ll be a beautiful day in the neighborhood for U.S. Open Local Qualifying today at TimberStone Golf Course in Caldwell. TimberStone pro Tad Holloway has done his homework on what he says is an excellent field, with 37 golfers vying for two spots in Sectional Qualifying. One of last year’s local qualifiers is back today, Boise High grad and former Boise State standout Kyle Mitsunaga. Former Broncos T.K. Kim and Ty Travis are also entered, as well as current Boise State golfer Connor Johnstone. According to Holloway, Kim has been playing in Asia and is headed to the Canadian tour this summer. Among the other players to watch are Banbury pro Ben Bryson and Bishop Kelly grad Hunter Ostrom, who’s now a junior at Notre Dame.
One very cool footnote on today’s qualifier: Chad Pfeifer is in the field. Pfeifer is the Caldwell native who turned to golf after losing his left leg in the Iraq War in 2007. In less than a year, Pfeifer was playing golf for the first time as part of his rehab. Pfeifer is a three-time winner of the Warrior Open, a tournament for injured veterans. He was the 2011 National Amputee Golf champion. And in perhaps his best performance, Pfeifer finished fifth at the 2014 American Century Celebrity Championship at Lake Tahoe.
AROUND THE HORN
After running the fastest 3,000-meter steeplechase by a collegiate woman this season, Boise State’s Allie Ostrander has been named the Mountain West Women’s Track Athlete of the Week. Ostrander won the event last Thursday at the prestigious Payton Jordan Invitational at Stanford. She and the Broncos now compete at the Mountain West Outdoor Track and Field Championships, beginning today in Clovis, CA.
The College of Idaho women’s softball team has earned a bid to the NAIA Championships for the first time in five years. The Coyotes will face William Carey next Monday in Hattiesburg, MS. And the C of I men’s lacrosse team upset third-ranked Grand Valley State 13-9 Tuesday night at the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Division II National Championships in Salt Lake City. The Yotes advance to the semifinals this afternoon against second-ranked St. Thomas of Minnesota..
This Day In Sports…brought to you by ZAMZOWS…Nobody Knows Like Zamzows!
May 8, 2011: Phil Jackson’s 20-year coaching career ends on an ignominious note, as the L.A. Lakers are pummeled 122-86 by the Dallas Mavericks to complete a sweep in the second round of the NBA Playoffs. The ending couldn’t diminish Jackson’s body of work, though. He was arguably the best coach in NBA history, winning 11 NBA championships with the Lakers and Chicago Bulls while partnering with superstars like Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. Jackson posted 1,640 regular season victories with a winning percentage of .704.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)