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  1. #1
    Prophet Guest

    Boxer's nephew fighting for a spot with Vikings

    Boxer's nephew fighting for a spot with Vikings
    Associated Press
    23 August 2006

    EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) - When Ronyell Whitaker arrived at Minnesota Vikings camp, he took a look around.

    The unknown cornerback was surrounded by accomplished veterans in the defensive backfield - Antoine Winfield, Fred Smoot, Darren Sharper, Tank Williams, Dwight Smith. That meant Whitaker had a fight on his hands if he was going to make the team.
    That's fine with him. Fighting runs in Whitaker's family. He is the nephew of former boxing great Pernell "Sweet Pea" Whitaker.

    "I love being here," Whitaker said. "I wouldn't want to be in a place where making it would be easy. I want to go somewhere where you have to compete. That's the only way you're going to get better and raise your game to another level."

    The competition seems to suit Whitaker well. He's turned heads in the preseason while playing nickel back for the Vikings. Last week, he had five tackles, a sack and a forced fumble in a win over Pittsburgh.

    "He's probably made the most plays out of any defensive back in camp," Sharper said. "His game is extremely polished."

    He has NFL Europe to thank for that.

    Whitaker was drafted by Tampa Bay in 2003, spending most of the next two seasons on the practice squad.

    He was waived after training camp in 2005 and spent all of last season at home in Norfolk, Va., contemplating quitting football to follow his uncle's footsteps.

    As a youth, Whitaker trained as a boxer in his uncle's gym, the same guy that produced future welterweight champion Zab Judah.

    "When I was sitting at home last year, I was considering going back to the gym and becoming a pro boxer," Whitaker said.

    Instead, Whitaker signed with the Vikings to get a chance to play for new defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin, who coached the secondary in Tampa. Then he begrudgingly went to Europe to play with the Rhein Fire.

    "At first I had mixed feelings because of what other guys told me," Whitaker said. "My main focus was to go over there and try to play at a high level."

    He picked off four passes, returned one for a league-record 100-yard touchdown, and made the All-NFL Europe team.

    Sharper spent some time in Europe as well, as a color analyst for the television coverage.

    "Mike Tomlin told me before I went over there to watch out for a kid named Whitaker that is out there playing great ball in Europe," Sharper said. "I went over there and saw this loud-talking guy talking a lot of smack and making plays."

    Yeah, but it's one thing to do it in Europe.

    "I wonder how it will carry over when he comes over to our camp?" Sharper remembered wondering. "He kept going. The first day he stepped in there, and he's just kept making plays and he's doing it continuously."

    Vikings coach Brad Childress can see the boxer in him.

    "He has kind of an extra heartbeat," Childress said. "He always plays with a high tempo, and it doesn't surprise me that he's playing that way."

    Though his uncle was away fighting and training a lot during Whitaker's childhood, Ronyell credits the family's boxing background with his success.

    "It helped me with football as far as quickness, a lot of shoulder movement, head movement," Whitaker said. "So it helped me a lot. And nobody's better conditioned than boxers. Nobody."

    That's not all he learned.

    Sweet Pea was considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world in the early 1990s, despite a controversial draw with Julio Cesar Chavez and a loss to Oscar De La Hoya. But drug problems kept Pernell Whitaker from realizing his full potential.

    "Not only did I sit back and learn a lot of stuff from him just by watching him in the ring, but I also learned a lot of things not to do," Whitaker said. "Not to let it carry on when I turned professional in whatever sport I did, whether it was boxing or football.

    "I learned a lot of great lessons from that. I think that made me not only a good person, but a good professional."

  2. #2
    Vikes_King's Avatar
    Vikes_King is offline Jersey Retired
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    Dec 1969

    Re: Boxer's nephew fighting for a spot with Vikings

    i've been reading about this guy all summer... i really hope he makes a spot on the final 53

    "We’ll win our own Super Bowl, with our own players. Real Vikings. Something Brett Favre can never be."

    - Dan Calabrese

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