Sat, 31 Oct 2020

Vikings UDFA WR Dan Chisena Has Speed to Burn

Minnesota Vikings
28 May 2020, 04:37 GMT+10

EAGAN, Minn. - Undrafted free agents typically don't generate a ton of buzz when signing with NFL teams in the hours immediately following the draft.

And it's likely that most Vikings fans wouldn't recognize Dan Chisena if he passed them on the street.

But the former Penn State wide receiver - and track star - now might hold the title of being the fastest player on Minnesota's roster. Even if he admits he is a work in progress on the gridiron.

"I think my speed is just a God-given ability that I've had all my life," said Chisena, who was clocked at a blazing 4.32 seconds in the 40-yard dash by a handful of draft websites. "It was great with track, and obviously in football you can't just be fast. You need to be a complete player in order to play at the highest level, so that's a good asset to have, but I need to continue to develop in other areas of the game.

"I'm thankful for the opportunity," Chisena added. "I think my speed is something that was able to catch the eyes of some coaches, particularly on special teams, being able to make an impact in that area of the game while continuing to develop as a wide receiver."

Chisena was on Penn State's roster for three total seasons in college, with a gap in the middle. He redshirted his freshman year in 2015, then returned to the program in 2018 and 2019.

He played in 14 total games over two seasons, with his three receptions for 66 yards all coming in 2019 as a senior. Chisena delivered his biggest impact on special teams.

"My biggest role, I would say, was at the gunner position on punt team," Chisena said. "Running down and trying to force fair catches or pin the ball inside the 10.

"We did pretty well in that phase of the game," Chisena added. "It's something I had a lot of fun with and really enjoyed and was something that I hope I can bring to the special teams here in Minnesota."

But as noted above, there were a few years where Chisena was not on the football team. Instead, he was an All-American sprinter for the Penn State track and field team.

He helped the Nittany Lions place ninth in the 4x100-meter relay (39.15) and 13th in the 4x400-meter relay (3:04.17) at the 2017 NCAA Outdoor Championships. Chisena, who helped his team set school records in both of those events, also played a factor in Penn State winning the 2017 Big Ten Conference team championship, as well as a conference title in the 4x400 relay.

The reason Chisena didn't double dip in both sports? His track scholarship prohibited him from doing both.

"I walked on to the football team at Penn State my freshman year, and I was going to play football and run track there," said Chisena, a Pennsylvania native who won high school state titles in the 100, 200 and 4x100 relay as a senior. "The opportunity came about after my freshman season, when I was running in the spring and I could get a scholarship for track, but I wouldn't be allowed to play football on a track scholarship.

"Ultimately, [I] made the decision to help out my family financially and try to excel at one sport instead of be average at two and decided to run track for a couple years."

But football remained steadfast in Chisena's mind while he excelled on the track. His passion for football led him to visit Penn State Head Coach James Franklin after the spring of 2018.

"Ever since I left football, I really missed it," said Chisena, who was an all-conference wide receiver in high school. "I grew up playing football since third grade and always knew that at some point I wanted to play again.

"In my junior year of track, I ended up getting hurt, and that kind of made me sit down and think about what I wanted the next year and a half of eligibility to look like," Chisena added. "I approached Coach Franklin about rejoining the team, and he gave me that opportunity, which I was extremely grateful for, and just had the past year-and-a-half or two years now of being back on the football team."

The transition wasn't an easy one. Chisena said he had to condition his body to run routes rather than simply sprinting straight ahead.

"It was a challenge for sure. I'd been running straight for three years and hadn't run any routes or anything like that the entire time," Chisena said. "It was difficult at first, but it was great that first season back. I was on the scout team that entire year, which I honestly loved. I loved that role.

"I loved being able to help the team in whatever area I could," Chisena added. "For me personally, I got to go against our starters every single day that first year and go against our top defensive backs every day in practice. I feel like that helped me kind of get my feet back under me and allowed me to transition into having a more substantial role this past year, my fifth year."

Chisena played in 12 games as a senior in 2019 for a Penn State squad that ended the season ranked ninth in the country.

But with limited reps over the past two seasons, Chisena needed another way to get on the radar of NFL teams. He did just that at the 2020 SPIRAL Tropical Bowl, which was held in mid-January in Florida.

Chisena showed off his speed and pass-catching ability with five receptions for 155 yards, including lengthy touchdowns of 55 and 69 yards. He was named the game's MVP.

Chisena said he expects to begin his NFL career battling for a roster spot through special teams, similar to what fellow wide receiver Adam Thielen did.

For comparison's sake, Chisena and Thielen are of the same build. Both are around 200 pounds, although Chisena is 6-foot-3, an inch taller than Thielen and with more speed to burn.

And who knows where Chisena's football path will lead him in the coming months and years.

But it's already been quite the journey for the former track star turned NFL hopeful.

"I'm going to go in and do the best that I can with the opportunities that I'm given, and do whatever I can to help this team ... at receiver or on special teams," Chisena said. "I'm just looking forward to being grateful for whatever opportunities come my way and trying to take advantage of them and letting the things I can't control take care of themselves.

"I just had really great conversations with a couple of the coaches, just between coach Andrew [Janocko], the receivers coach, and Coach [Marwan] Maalouf, the special teams coordinator," Chisena added. "[I] ... had great conversations with them and felt really comfortable with them. Obviously, it's just a great organization I've heard great things about and just a great, great city. A lot of good things going for it."

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