In every sport, injuries are an unfortunate fact of life. By the end of the NFL season, it can seem like half of the roster is spending time in the training room; despite spending the season on the sidelines, back-ups and third-string players are cast into crucial roles. Minnesota Vikings running back Mike Boone will find himself in that exact situation on Monday Night.
The Vikings might have already clinched a playoff berth, but they’re still fighting for improved seeding. The big stage, however, could be just the time for Boone to establish his name as an NFL running back.
Mike Boone’s road to the NFL
Mike Boone’s football career started in his home state of Florida, where he played for Baker County High School. He lined up as a wide receiver and kick returner but, no matter his position, Boone posted big numbers. After pulling in 57 passes for 1,068 yards and 18 touchdowns as a high school senior, he headed to the University of Cincinnati.
Despite his high school success, Boone shifted to running back with the Bearcats. He took naturally to the new position, though, and finished his freshman season with a team-high 650 yards and nine touchdowns; as a sophomore, Boone rushed for another 749 yards while finding the end zone nine times. The running back’s junior season, however, was slowed down by a foot injury, and his senior year didn’t live up to previous heights.
After leaving Cincinnati, Boone landed with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent. He appeared in eight games during the 2018-19 campaign, picking up 47 yards on 11 carries. On Monday night, however, he’ll get a good deal more work.
Will Mike Boone get his first NFL start?
While every NFL team has experienced their share of injuries by Week 16 of the regular season, the Minnesota Vikings have been hit hard at running back. Dalvin Cook won’t take the field on Monday night due to a shoulder and chest issue, while backup Alexander Mattison is questionable after spraining his ankle in Week 14.
That puts Boone in line for his first professional start at running back. While his road to the NFL wasn’t the easiest, Monday night could make everything worthwhile. “It’ll feel good if that’s the case. I could finally get a start and try to make the most of it,” he explained. “It’s Monday Night Football, man. As a kid, that’s what you dream of.”
Whether or not Boone is starting, head coach Mike Zimmer always can count on the running back to bring plenty of energy to the squad. “Yeah, he’s really been chomping at the bit to play, anyway, and that’s why he’s been doing such a great job for us on special teams, because he just wants to get on the field and play,” the coach said. “I think [Vikings running backs coach] Kennedy [Polamalu] does a great job with him – and Dalvin and those other guys, as well. I think he’s just really excited about any time he can get on the field.”
What to expect against the Green Bay Packer
While Mike Boone might not be a household name, he could have a big night against the Green Bay Packers. The running back has shown potential during his NFL cameos—in Week 15, he recorded 56 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries after Dalvin Cook left the game—and he should get plenty of opportunities. The Vikings average the third-most rushing attempts per game in the NFL, and the Packers have an especially porous run defense.
If nothing else, Boone will be motivated to show that he belongs on the NFL’s biggest stage as a starting running back. “I finally get an opportunity, and I try to take advantage,” he said.