The Minnesota Vikings have caught the attention of the rest of the NFC, as well as the nation, with their improbable 4-1 start.
Christian Ponder has outplayed the other quarterbacks in his division. According to the ESPN Total QBR rating system, he has a higher rating than Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler in 2012.
The Vikings have smothered opposing offenses as well, ranking sixth against the run thanks in large part to the emergence of defensive tackle Letroy Guion.
Guion, drafted by Minnesota in the fifth round back in 2008, had two sacks against the Detroit Lions and blocked a field goal against the San Francisco 49ers.
NFL Spin Zone’s Chris Boyle interviewed Guion on Wednesday to talk about the Vikings’ hot start, the team’s Week 6 matchup with the Washington Redskins and the defensive tackle’s other passion – fishing.
Chris Boyle: From a national perspective, the Vikings came into this season with lower expectations. How would you explain the 4-1 start?
Letroy Guion: When I was working back in the offseason in New Jersey, it all started back there. I was just basically working and waiting on [the Vikings] to see if they were going to re-sign me. It came time when free agency hit and they signed me back. That was big for me. I knew what I had to come back and do. In the offseason, I was working out real hard.
Boyle: You signed a three-year deal with the Vikings and earned the starting defensive tackle spot next to Kevin Williams. What did you try to improve upon in the offseason?
Guion: I worked on my strength and my explosiveness, my redirection, stopping and going. I had long, hard weight training. I went through the whole nine yards this offseason to try to get myself and my mind right before this upcoming season because I was expecting to become a starter or expecting to play somewhere. Being in the National Football League, I was coming up on my fifth year so I was preparing myself for a great year coming.
Boyle: Talk about life as a starter. You’re lined up with a couple of Pro Bowlers in Jared Allen and Williams. What have been the biggest adjustments to a full-time starting role?
Guion: Just getting adjusted to being a starter, taking on starter roles and responsibilities; understanding and knowing what’s coming and what’s happening, and what you have to do to play at a high level.
Boyle: What’s been the biggest change in responsibility? What is your role along the defensive line?
Guion: Basically to control the middle; control the A gap, do my job, stay in the A gap. I make plays, run to the ball, finish and hustle all the time. That’s been my biggest thing.
Boyle: Your defense is surrendering less than 50 yards per game on the ground and has encountered some top running backs in Frank Gore and Chris Johnson. How have you been able to control the middle and stuff the run against the upper echelon running backs?
Guion: The biggest thing is just coming out here to practice. When you go harder in practice, once the game comes, it gets easy. It really doesn’t matter what back comes in or what back you’re going against. If you can do it in practice, you can do it in the game.
Boyle: What would you say about Robert Griffin III? Do you buy the hype?
Guion: I would say he’s a special, young kid. He’s got a lot of great talent and great awareness, and he can throw the ball too.
Boyle: Last December, Adrian Peterson tore his ACL in Washington and is back to carrying the workload on offense. What do you notice about him, and how has he been able to bounce back this quickly?
Guion: The best answer I can give to that question is that I know he works extremely hard in everything he does. He’s self-motivated and he comes to work like he’s going to work for real every day. No jokes. He doesn’t take this as a joke at all.
Boyle: You’re playing alongside a defensive line with some big personalities in Allen and Williams. How have you identified yourself?
Guion: I’m just trying to do my job and hope those guys accept me as the football player I am and that I work hard to be. I’m just trying to make my mark, trying to do what those guys have done in the past – being a great defensive lineman.
Boyle: You’re a Florida State Seminole at heart, so what was your reaction to their upset loss at N.C. State?
Guion: It was a tough one. I would have liked them to pull that one out because we had the No. 3 spot in the nation, but it happens sometimes. I’m still going for the ‘Noles strong. I think we can bounce back because anything can happen during the season.
Boyle: What’s it about N.C. State that makes them such a difficult opponent for Florida State, because they have had a lot of success against Top 10 Seminoles squads in the past?
Guion: The ACC has a lot of speed and a lot of talent just like the other conferences. You have to come to play every Saturday when you’re in college. You can’t take anything for granted. I don’t think they took anything for granted, but they let that one slip by.
Boyle: Now, I hear you’re a bit of a fisherman?
Guion: Oh yeah, a great fisherman.
Boyle: What do you usually fish for in Minnesota as compared to your home state in Florida?
Guion: Up here, I fish mostly for northerners [northern pike], walleye, crappie, pinfish and bass. Down in Florida, more bass and bigger-size crappie, bigger bluegill. [I fish] mostly for fish I can eat. I go out for a little ocean fishing too, trout fishing in rivers. I catch mahi mahi out in the ocean down in Miami. I do everything. I go all over to fish. I fish the Gulf [of Mexico], fish the Atlantic. I fish everywhere.
Boyle: Saltwater or freshwater?
Guion: It’s hard. Saltwater fish are way more aggressive than freshwater fish. But, freshwater fish can be fun too.
Boyle: Do you fish with any of your teammates?
Guion: I have. I’ve fished with Kevin Williams up here and Brian Robison. We go fishing a lot.
Boyle: How do they compare to you?
Guion: They’re pretty good fishermen, but I don’t think they can beat me. I’m pretty good. I’ve been doing it all my life. I’m pretty sure they have too, but I got that special touch.