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Vikings appear to be 'perfect fit' for TJ product DeCicco

| Wednesday, May 28, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Dom DeCicco called it the “perfect fit.”

DeCicco, a Thomas Jefferson High School grad and Pitt product, last week signed with the Minnesota Vikings.

The Vikings were searching for reserve linebackers with pass coverage abilities who could also be special teams contributors. That description fit DeCicco perfectly.

He was invited to a tryout camp several weeks ago, and the team liked what they saw in DeCicco and signed him to a deal.

“I have a chance to make the team,” he said. “I just have to play really well in OTAs, minicamp and in training camp. I have to show them I can make plays on special teams.”

Minnesota plays a 4-3 defense in which linebackers frequently are asked to drop into coverage. DeCicco was an all-conference safety at Pitt, meaning pass coverage is one of his strengths.

“The system they run is very similar to what we ran in Chicago,” said the 6-foot-4, 230-pound DeCicco. “All of their linebackers are not huge guys; they're smaller, athletic guys. It's the perfect fit for me.”

The Vikings are being led by first-year head coach Mike Zimmer, another attractive aspect for DeCicco.

“The fact that these are all new coaches means I have a fair chance,” he said. “I'm not behind the eight-ball going in. It's an even playing field.”

DeCicco will have to show he can play all three linebacker positions with the Vikings if he's to make the team, and he's already taking reps at all three spots.

However, perhaps his biggest impact will come on special teams.

“Definitely,” he said. “Special teams is going to be my way to get in. If I play well and stay healthy, hopefully I can make some big plays.”

DeCicco played all or parts of the 2011 and 2012 seasons with the Chicago Bears, emerging as a special teams ace and reserve linebacker, figuring in on 11 tackles. He then played with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the 2013 preseason.

DeCicco believes the experiences with those NFL teams have made him a more well-rounded player on and off the field.

“Just being around so much of it, I feel like I've seen a lot,” he said. “I know the ins and the outs. I know what it takes to play on special teams, and I know how you're supposed to handle your business off of the field. Having played on several teams is definitely an advantage.”

During his TJ days, DeCicco was a star quarterback, receiver and safety and one of the top players on several championship teams.

He went to Pitt to play safety, where he was a three-year starter and two-time All-Big East selection. As a senior, he at times played as a linebacker/safety hybrid, setting him up for a professional career at linebacker.

Minnesota went 5-10-1 last season and finished last in the NFC North. The 2014 season will be one of major change for the Vikings.

In addition to hiring Zimmer, Minnesota drafted linebacker Anthony Barr and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in the first round of the NFL draft.

The Vikings also will move into a new stadium this season.

Brian Knavish is a freelance writer.

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