Vikings: Ivan Pace Jr. going from undrafted free agent to defensive star

Eight months ago, Ivan Pace Jr. was waiting for a phone call on NFL Draft weekend that never came.

Moments after the draft ended, the Minnesota Vikings came calling. In the time since, all he’s done as an undrafted free agent is play in every game for the Vikings this season, and make nine starts. He played arguably his best game of the season in Sunday’s 3-0 win over the Las Vegas Raiders.

He had a team-high 13 tackles, a sack and got the game-sealing interception. He did not hide his self-confidence in the locker room after the win.

"I got that dog in me man. I ain’t never been surprised. I know how good I am, I’ve been showing the world since I was young that I was good. Now I’m here in the league and still proving it," Pace said.

Pace has 43 tackles on the season, and 2.5 sacks. He called his fourth-quarter interception, saying it was the same as the first play of the game for the Raiders. He knew the play was coming when Davante Adams ran a hitch route. Pace got the interception, which came immediately after the Vikings got their only points of the day on a Greg Joseph field goal. 

What’s most impressive is that Pace, an undrafted rookie, is taking over the defense after Jordan Hicks went down with compartment syndrome in his right leg. Pace took over green dot duties, which he did in college.

"He played a fantastic football game. Just looking forward to what’s out in front of IP because as an undrafted free agent, he’s doing a heck of a job for our team right now," Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell said.

Pace knew he’d have success in the NFL, and not getting the call on draft weekend only gave him more fuel to prove himself.

"Coming out, undrafted. I don’t know if any of y’all saw it, but I said ‘Y’all done F-d up when they didn’t draft me.' I’m showing them. I know I have that dog in me, it’s always been there," Pace said.