There are many important figures in the history of the Minnesota Vikings. Bud Grant was the stoic leader who guided his team to four Super Bowls. Randy Moss was the receiver who changed the game. Stefon Diggs caught the Minneapolis Miracle. The list goes on and on.
For all of the great characters, there is one man who deserves a seat at the table. He probably won’t be heading to Canton. He might not ever play in an official game for the Vikings. But he provided Viking fans memories that will be talked about for years to come.
His name is Kyle Sloter.
The Vikings couldn’t ignore their fans any longer and signed Sloter to the active roster on Tuesday afternoon. While he became a preseason god during his first stint in Minnesota, his legend dates back to his college career.
Sloter started at Southern Miss, where the Eagles wanted to have him play receiver. Standing in the same city where Brett Favre carved out his legacy, Sloter knew that he was destined for more than being compared to Adam Thielen and Wes Welker and transferred to Northern Colorado.
After one season as a gadget player, Sloter finally got his opportunity with the Bears in 2016. He threw six touchdowns in his first start and wound up tossing a school-record 29 before taking his talents to the NFL.
A UDFA signing by the Denver Broncos, Sloter quickly established himself by posting a preseason passer rating (125.4) that would make Kirk Cousins blush. The Broncos tried to sneak him onto the practice squad during final cuts, but eight teams put in a claim, and the Vikings scored the victory.
The move led to a jolt of electricity during the fourth quarter of preseason games. Fans were no longer paying to see a glorified scrimmage. They were packing US Bank Stadium to see Sloter. He led multiple game-winning drives during the 2018 preseason and made a strong push to secure the backup job in 2019.
That performance made Sloter a champion of the people. When Bo Levi Mitchell claimed the Vikings didn’t want anyone pushing Cousins for the starting job, he was wrong. Instead, the Vikings were trying to save Mitchell from the wrath of the god of preseason football. Everyone wanted Sloter to win the job, except for Mike Zimmer.
With the intent of building a support system for Cousins, Zimmer blasted Sloter’s practice habits. Many quarterbacks trying to make the roster would have stayed back and kept the peace in the locker room. But Sloter threw his money on the table (the Vikings fined quarterbacks $20 for talking to the media at the time) and let the world know the truth.
“He said what he said,” Sloter said defiantly to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. “I don’t necessarily have a reaction. I’m just going to react by playing well on Saturday. I’m just going to let my play do the talking.”
The Vikings cut Sloter in favor of Sean Mannion, who has yet to throw a touchdown in his sixth NFL season. Sloter bounced around the league with stops in Arizona, Detroit, Chicago, and Las Vegas, but nobody could comprehend what they were seeing.
But Sloter’s opportunity came last week. Mannion was placed on the COVID-19/Reserve list, and with Cousins following the NFL’s protocol for vaccinated players, the Vikings needed a backup plan in case he landed on the list too.
Zimmer could go with Kellen Mond, who the Vikings were bullish on last April. But instead, he remembered the young signal-caller who stood in the face of his criticisms.
Imagine Sloter going toe to toe with Aaron Donald last Sunday. Or walking into Lambeau Field with the Vikings’ playoff hopes on the line. It would inject a can of Bang straight into the veins of a locker room that had suffered from a “Christmas hangover” against the Los Angeles Rams.
There’s a good chance that Sloter will never see the field in his second tour with Minnesota. But like many Vikings legends before him, he will at the very least be a legendary tale of What if?