Valdosta State University alum Larry Dean, through hard work and dedication, has turned his NFL dreams into an everyday reality now playing for the Minnesota Vikings.
Dean is most notable for breaking NFL pro bowler Jessie Tuggle’s single season tackle record at VSU last year, finishing with 122 tackles.
The 23-year-old Tifton native’s lifetime goal was accomplished this summer despite not getting drafted.
Due to the NFL lockout, teams were unable to sign or negotiate with undrafted free agents.
All Dean could do at that time was stay positive and hope that he would be signed.
Once the league eventually came to terms with a new collective bargaining agreement, the time had come for Dean to be picked up. His agent was immediately contacted by the Vikings.
Several teams had interest in Dean, including the New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars, both of which came down to Valdosta to work out with him. Nevertheless, his new home ended up being in Minnesota.
During camp Dean impressed coaches enough to earn himself a spot on the active roster starting on special teams.
His transition from VSU to the NFL has gone quite smoothly starting his new professional football career.
“The biggest thing is you have to stay conscious and remember that you’re a professional everyday on and off the field and what you do is a reflection of the team,” Dean said.
Dean’s debut was a memorable one that came during week one in San Diego when his teammate and return specialist Percy Harvin scored on a 103-yard kickoff return.
Dean made an excellent block to help Harvin soar to the end zone untouched.
“It’s definitely a memory I’ll never forget,” Dean said.
He was one of the three Vikings who celebrated with Harvin after the return. He finished the first game of the regular season with two tackles.
Dean is working hard in Minnesota to impress his new coaches to the same degree that he impressed his colleagues at VSU. The Blazer’s Head Football Coach David Dean recognized Dean’s drive to succeed as a leader both on and off the field.
“Larry has an incredible quality as a leader and knows his position as well as anyone I have ever had the pleasure of coaching. Everyone who was part of this team respected Larry and listened to his every word,” said Dean in the Voice, VSU’s alumni magazine publication. “I never knew Larry to have a bad day. He always had a smile on his face, a kind word to say and an upbeat attitude. If I had to describe the perfect college student-athlete, Larry Dean would be at the top of that list.”
“I challenge myself to be the best — to work out every day, to be coachable and knowledgeable,” Larry Dean told the Voice. “To be the best, you have to have heart, be a student of the game and respect it.”
Middle Tennessee State linebackers and special teams coach Joe Cauthen left his position as VSU’s defensive coordinator last year. He is more than proud to see Dean chasing his dreams.
“I really thought that’s all he needed was a chance and he made the best out of it,” Cauthen said. “That’s all you can ask in life is for a chance.”
Cauthen, in his first season as the defensive coordinator at VSU, coached Dean and the Blazers to a national championship in 2007.
Cauthen has been around many players, however he claims Dean’s attitude reminds him a lot of four-time pro bowler Jeremiah Trotter.
“Larry had similar passion to him (Trotter) for how much he loved the game and then how much he wanted to prove himself,” Cauthen said.
Dean finished his impressive college career breaking the Gulf South Conference record with 365 tackles.
He also became the first Valdosta State player to win National Defensive Player of the Year honors.
“He’s just a different guy,” Cauthen said. “I’ve had a couple (players) go to the NFL, but he’s the best one I’ve ever coached.”
Now this season the Blazer football team has had to adjust without their former star on defense.
Safety Harrison Dreiling has been pressured to lead this defense since prior to the season’s start, carrying the torch as the next leader of the black swarm defense.
“It’s an honor; I’m just trying to set an example. Come out here, work hard and lead through work ethic,” Dreiling said.
Dean and Dreiling had a great relationship in their time playing together on and off the field.
Before Dean left VSU he managed to earn his criminal justice degree becoming the first in his family to obtain a degree.
Dean’s father, Larry Dean Sr., is very proud of how hard Larry has worked to accomplish all he has both at the college and professional levels.
“I always told coaches to ride him hard because I knew the man inside of him could take it. It is a true blessing that he may play in the NFL, but it is the result of his hard work and commitment to be beyond his best,” said Dean Sr. in an interview with the Voice before Dean was signed to the Vikings. “He knows you have to play through pain and is comfortable in leadership roles.”
On the year, Dean has played in all seven games for the Vikings (1-6) schedule, recording four tackles on special teams.
Dean will return to his home state of Georgia on Nov. 27 when the Minnesota Vikings take on the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome.