Only a few years ago he was driving delivery trucks and forklifts for a warehouse in Salt Lake City. For nine months he was out of football. He ran on Main Street during his lunch hour and lifted weights after work, hoping for another shot, and here he is. On Sunday he will start at running back a position he earned only after cheap throwback jerseys
asking a coach for a chance for the division leading Minnesota Vikings, one of the best teams in pro football. For now, he has set aside the dirty work and anonymity of special teams to fill in again for injured superstar Adrian Peterson.
Then, as now, Asiata was a solid, if unspectacular, running back, efficient, reliable, tough and often injured. He broke his leg in the first game he played for the Utes, in 2007. The following season his 12 touchdowns and 707 rushing yards helped propel the Utes to an unbeaten season and a victory in the Sugar Bowl. A year later his season ended in the fourth game with a knee injury after a fast start (303 yards rushing). The NCAA granted him a medical hardship for a sixth year of eligibility in 2010. He ran for 695 yards and caught 32 passes.
In the summer of 2012, nearly two years after he had played for Utah, he tried out for the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League, but within days he received a call from Saxon inviting him to the Vikings camp. He had convinced head coach Leslie Frazier to give Asiata another tryout. The Vikings put him at the fullback position, which of course meant he was used almost exclusively as a lead blocker for the running back. During the exhibition season, Asiata gathered his nerve and went to Saxon’s office, where he asked if he could try the running back position. “I just felt I needed to tell them how I felt,” he says. “I just wanted to give it a shot.”